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Thursday
Sep172009

Sweet Discovery: Shedding Light on the Mystery of the Pink Bakery Boxes

Cuppie loves Doughnuts!
When I moved to Seattle from New York City, I immediately noticed an important cultural difference. Where on the East Coast I was accustomed to white bakery boxes tied with red and white string, in Seattle it seemed that the norm was pink bakery boxes. Delving a bit further, I learned that the pink box does indeed reign in other areas of the country too.

When I asked a baker why she used the pink boxes instead of white, the answer was pretty straightforward: "they're cheaper".

But why are they cheaper? Unexpectedly, I found something in a friend's issue of Los Angeles Magazine which may shed some light on the issue. In the "Ask Chris" q+a section, this question was posed: "Why does Los Angeles seem to be the only city in the country with pink doughnut boxes?". The response is intriguing:

No, they’re not a tribute to Angelyne. Cambodians fleeing the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s arrived in large numbers in Southern California, where they were recruited by Win-chell’s. At the time the coated, greaseproof boxes that held the pastries were costly and came in white, the color of mourning in Cambodia. So the immigrants found a company, Evergreen in Cerritos, that made the boxes cheaper and uncoated in pink.

Though this response is specific to the California area, I believe it may shed some light on the boxes in other areas of the country too. Obviously, not all bakers would even be aware of white being the color of mourning in Cambodia--but I would surmise that the cheaper cost of the uncoated boxes would speak to many bakers looking at the bottom line.

 

Why pink though? Well, alas I can't shed any more light on that other than my own theory, which is that it's a forgiving color when it comes to grease stains: slight darkened areas of grease which might seep through the box look much more subtle on the pink color than on a white box, where they show up in an unappetizing shade of grey.

Of course, the one thing that holds true regardless of whether the parcel is pink, white, brown, or even some other color is that it's always a beautiful sight to see a bakery box coming your way.

Read the full "Ask Chris" feature here.

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Reader Comments (14)

That is interesting, I have alwasy wondered that actually!

Now if we could only solve the mystery of why plastic bags in China Town are pink I would be satisfied! :)

September 17 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

Wow, this never occurred to me. I've lived in Northern California all my life and the pink box reigns supreme. I didn't know that was a semi-local phenomenom! Even Kara's Cupcakes in San Francisco has tiny little single-size pink boxes (SO CUTE).

September 17 | Unregistered CommenterSheriB

Wow Pink boxes. I never knew that. I'm on the east coast and ours are white or the recycled kraft/brown. I think I'd like getting some goodies in a pink box, or a purple one, or a green one,...heck I just like getting anything in a bakery box.

I always had white boxes. In our Italian community that's the color the boxes come in. The ribbons change from time to time... but i don't think that has any significance. Sometimes we get red, green, and white ribbons but that's a no brainer, it's the Italian flag!

I suspect that pink is just a cheaper color...when we moved to Humboldt County in Northern California, we noticed an awful lot of pink houses poking out of forests...more obvious because of their color. I think that the pink paint must have been a sale color every spring...leading to a proliferation of pink abodes.

September 17 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Interesting! I knew about the prevalence of Cambodian-refugee-owned donut shops in Southern California, but I didn't know the history of the pink box. Here is http://www.nytimes.com/1995/05/26/us/long-beach-journal-from-cambodia-to-doughnut-shops.html" rel="nofollow">an interesting NY Times article about how so many Cambodians came to have donut shops in California.

September 17 | Unregistered CommenterDelicious Coma

Interesting!

Pink cupcake boxes are definitely the norm in Atlanta from what I can tell. I always just assumed it was because it was a sweet color!

September 17 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. Newlywed

super duper weird. !! made me seriously crave a donut!

September 17 | Unregistered Commenterlyndsay

So interesting! I had no idea that was why. I've learned something new today.

September 17 | Unregistered Commenterjamieofalltrades

I believe that the paper boxes are layers upon layers, and the pink is considered a powder coat before the top coat of the white. If you notice, often the white pastry boxes have a sleeker feel than the pink ones. That's because the white is a finished coating and the pink was considered a "primer" to adhere the white without soaking through the paper layers into the food. The reason the grease stains on the pink boxes look darker pink is because it is actually bringing up the brown pigmentation of the paper to the surface and causing an illusion of dark pink due to a lack of "sealing" from the white.

September 18 | Unregistered CommenterJulia

Veryyy interesting!
Its good to know about this kind of things.

September 18 | Unregistered CommenterAlicia

I also read a study a few years ago that found that people perceived that pastries in a pink box tasted better than those in a white box, even when the pastries were the same. The suggestive power of color at work.

September 18 | Unregistered CommenterNatalieMac

I moved to a small town south of the SF Bay area in 1965 from Southern California and although I don't remember the color of boxes in So. Cal., the bakery boxes in my town were pink. That's way before Cambodians were making donuts in So. Cal. I like the explanation that Julia provided.

September 19 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

gosh - i love the history and story behind your curious exploration, but feel certain that pink boxes have been around longer than that as far as bakeries go - just musing

September 19 | Unregistered CommenterLady P
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