Think Pink

The Secret History of Pink Doughnut Boxes

Spoiler: they don't come from Portland.

By Marty Patail August 14, 2017 Published in the September 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

Pink donut box rycecn

Where do these rosy cartons come from?

Last spring, the LA Times dropped a bombshell: pink doughnut boxes were born in Southern California. Wait, hold up. Voodoo Doughnut’s slogan is “Good things come in pink boxes.” Slap-happy tourists toting the cult chain’s rosy boxes are a Portland sidewalk staple.

Well, according to Jim Parker, CEO of LA-area baking supply company BakeMark, the pink box is now simply known as the “9-9-4,” an industry standard that perfectly holds 12 standard-sized glazed rings. And its origins are pure 2-1-3.

In the 1970s, waves of Cambodian refugees arrived in LA County. The new Angelenos gravitated en masse to the relatively easy-to-enter doughnut business. And, almost immediately, the industry adopted the pink box. Constructed by a supplier called Westco—now BakeMark—from leftover card stock, the bright boxes were pennies cheaper than white, a color associated with death in Cambodian culture. “After the first big push, that became the doughnut box,” Parker says, noting some of the company’s salespeople still learn Khmer.

Hollywood helped: actors carried pink boxes onscreen, thanks to prop masters who didn’t realize they were a purely local phenomenon. By the time Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson and Tres Shannon started Voodoo in 2003, the pink box reigned in Cali. “If you go to Dallas or Atlanta, let’s just say, you wouldn’t find a pink box in the city,” say Parker, himself a Portland-area native. “People in LA don’t know that.”

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