Is there a more beautiful sight in the world then to walk into the breakroom at work and find a big pink box of doughnuts? Just sitting there, waiting, full of delicious doughy treats covered in icing, glazes, nuts, and, if you’re really lucky, sprinkles. But while it’s no mystery why doughnuts are so delicious (again, they’re doughy treats covered in icing, glazes, nuts, and sprinkles), it is an interesting story of why so many doughnut shops around the country, particularly small and independent ones, package their wares in a square box of pink-colored paperboard.
It’s a practice that started in Southern California. Despite the region’s well-known obsession with health and appearance, there are a lot of doughnut shops in the Los Angeles area—at least 700, which is about as many as there are in New York City and Chicago combined. And the vast majority of those shops are independently owned establishments, and the majority of those were established or are still operated by Cambodian immigrants. Thousands of families settled in Los Angeles after fleeing Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror in the 1970s.
When the Cambodian doughnut shop boom began in the late ‘70s, one owner was looking to cut costs and asked Westco, a company that has supplied ingredients and boxes to hundreds of doughnut shops, if they offered doughnut boxes a little cheaper than the standard white ones. Westco obliged, making boxes out of some unused pink cardstock. Each one cost a few cents less than the white ones did, which, when purchased by the thousands, added up to major savings.
Other shops got word from Westco that there was a cheaper option than the white boxes available, and they were quickly and widely adopted by the Cambodian-American doughnut industry. Not only were they cheaper, but the pink color had cultural significance for Cambodian doughnut shop proprietors. While white is the color of mourning in Cambodian culture, red (which isn’t far from pink) is a color associated with luck. So many shops started using the pink boxes that by the mid-1980s, pink was the standard color of doughnut box on the West Coast…and beyond.
Why Are Doughnut Boxes Pink?