This week, Pizza Hut is using one Phoenix location to test two innovations. First up is a trial of plant-based Italian sausage as a pizza topping on a Garden Specialty Pizza, complemented by banana peppers, onions, and mushrooms. The sausage is made by Kellogg’s incomparably named Incogmeato brand. Pizza toppings made from plant-based meat are still rather novel; in the United States, only Little Casears has tested an Italian sausage crumble from Impossible last spring.
But while the protein may top a lot of the headlines, the real potential for change is in its second move here: a round pizza box.
According to Pizza Hut, the new box keeps pizzas crispier, and it relies on less overall packaging compared with a typical square pizza box. The company’s chief customer and operations officer Nicolas Burquier says Pizza Hut worked with the startup Zume, best known for robotic pizza trucks, for more than two years on this design.
“The goal was to design a box that simply makes our pizza taste even better—hotter pizza, crispier crust,” says Burquier. “This box will improve the pizza-eating experience for our customers and simplify operations for our team members.”
The new round box has grooves to help catch grease and prevent soggy crust, and the top latches to keep heat in. It also interlocks easily to stack compactly, cutting out the employee effort that typically must be devoted to folding pizza boxes.
It may be innovative, but Pizza Hut is hardly the first to cut the corners off its pizza boxes. Back in 2010, Apple actually filed a patent for a round pizza box of its own, then touted it in a fun, three-minute ad called “The Underdogs” back in April.
In 2018, sustainable packaging company World Centric unveiled its own version of the round box. And even way back in 2004, a round pizza box called the Presseal was introduced by an inventor named John Harvey. None managed to catch on at a scale that even comes close to threatening the dominance of the almighty square.
But Burquier is confident that could change.
“One day in the future we’ll reminisce about the idea of round pizzas in square boxes and laugh,” says Burquier. The company plans to evaluate how the limited rollout in Phoenix goes, and look for ways to expand it across the country.