One of the world’s most avid collectors would love to get his hands on an exclusive Apple product that the company isn’t selling.
What Scott Wiener is after is a pizza box.
The wider world became aware of the circular carrier with a perforated lid after it was mentioned briefly in a recent Wired article about Apple Park, the Silicon Valley giant’s new campus in Cupertino, Calif. In a parenthetical, the magazine noted that Francesco Longoni, “the maestro of the Apple Park café, helped Apple patent a box that will keep to-go pizzas from getting soggy.” A caption added that it was “for workers who want to take the café’s pizza back to their pods.”
The patent describes the container as “a lid portion that is coupled to the base portion through a hinged connection such that the entire container is singularly constructed from a single piece of material.” Or you could just look at this video.
— Kyle Kessler (@kylekessler) May 17, 2017
Apple declined to make Longoni available for comment or answer any questions about their pizza and pizza boxes.
So we asked Wiener for his impression, based on photos and the patent filing.
Now Wiener does not make pizza boxes. He collects them. A lot of them. He is the Guinness record holder for the world’s largest pizza box collection, with more than 1,300 from dozens of countries in his possession. He sees them as an interesting way to look at pizza.
“Any piece of ephemera says so much about the culture — it says something about the food itself.”
The 35-year-old New Jersey native is the author of “Viva la Pizza!: The Art of the Pizza Box” and has given talks on the glories of these majestic receptacles at Google.
Wiener likes the Apple-patented pizza box, but was hesitant to call it revolutionary. Here’s what he saw as its strengths and weaknesses.
The pluses of the Apple pizza box
- The vents: “You’ve got those ports on the top, which are sort of toward the center and in a circle, and they seem to be located around the point where you have the most moisture build up. Standard pizza boxes have their vents toward their corners. And if you look at a pizza, and you look through those corner slots, you see nothing or you are looking at crust. The moisture’s not coming from there; the moisture is really coming from the tomatoes. If you have it toward the center that’s a really smart idea, that’s cool.”
- “The ridged bottom is cool because it allows for moisture to escape.”
- The look: “You walk around with that and it look like you’re from the future.”
- A step forward: “It’s a step away from paper, it’s a step toward other materials. With paper, when you use a recycled cardboard pizza box, sometimes you do get residue flavor change in the pizza because the steam buildup breaks down some of the paper. And I like the idea of moving away from that and maybe we have something that doesn’t have quite a flavor impact.” (Wiener based this assumption on the patent filing, which said the box is made of a type of fiber.)
- The shape: “It means you don’t have a lot of wiggle room if you have a slightly too large pizza. Also, if you stack those circles, it’s not as stable as stacking square boxes. A tower of those rounds — I can see that being an issue and falling over. The squares will just stack better.” (Wiener added that if the customers aren’t going to be stacking them then it won’t be an issue.)
- Space: “I’m a little concerned about the amount of real estate the packages themselves would take up. If you used it in a standard commercial pizzeria it might be the kind of thing that takes up too much space. If you get normal cardboard pizza boxes at a pizzeria they are called blank because they are just flattened and they are not folded up.”
- Lack of art: “It is tougher to add in any visual element, artwork.”
What would you ask Apple about their pizzas or pizza boxes?
He was most interested in how the pizzas are made. “Are they gas oven pizzas, is it a wood-fired thing? What is the oven in their cafeteria.”
He is also curious about the material used to make the box.
What are you seeing with pizza boxes today and what are the best?
Wiener said has seen growing interest in environmentally friendly pizza boxes that take up less space in the garbage can, and those that are easily recyclable or compostable. He also noted a trend in boxes with a secondary use, such as a built in game or that turns into its own container for leftovers.
A few years ago he named VENTiT the world’s best designed pizza box, praising it for retaining heat without trapping steam.
— Quartz (@qz) January 24, 2014
Some of Wiener’s current favorites are Zume Pizza’s moisture absorbent pizza pod (the lid soaks up to five grams of water vapor, according to Fast Company), and GreenBox‘s versatility container (the lid becomes plates and the base can be used to carry leftovers).
So, do you want an Apple pizza box?