• Rising demand for pizza-box stickers and labels suggests operators are getting creative with their boxes without paying for custom printing.
  • Advances in digital printing have made it significantly less expensive to create oddly shaped die-cut prints, opening up new possibilities for pizza box branding.

Related: This pizza box doubles as a board game

My business makes stickers. Over the last six months we’ve seen a massive uptick in orders from pizza restaurants around the United States—everything from name tags for new staff at national pizza chains to customized box stickers for independent shops. It was a significant enough trend that it had us wondering what was happening within the pizza industry to prompt all these orders. After a little research, we learned that 2021 is shaping up to be a great year for pizza…if you can take advantage of it.

With large retail chains competing against one another and individual pizza shops constantly vying for local customers, the pizza industry is vibrant and complex. And, as we’re seeing based on some recent orders, there’s a lot of room for creativity. The best pizza shops know how to use creative marketing to get their name out there, and we wanted to share some of the ideas we’ve seen.

And that all starts with taking a fresh look at the one thing that is almost as iconic as the pizza coming out of the oven: the box. Every pizza shop goes through nearly as many boxes as they do pies, but how many pizza boxes really stand out from the competition? They’re cardboard, either white or brown, and they may or may not have some artwork of a guy with a mustache, probably printed in muted green and red.

There’s a good reason why all pizza boxes look the same: cost. Few shops want to pay for custom-printed boxes, and the way a box looks has absolutely no impact on how well it can get a pizza from your shop to someone’s home. But this isn’t a good enough reason to stick with your “looks like every other” pizza box because your box is really your most visible advertisement.

During the whole ride home, your customer is eyeing up that pizza box and thinking about the treasures within. But you don’t just want them to be hungry for pizza—you want them hungry for your pizza! They’re smelling your product, their mouths are watering, they’re excited to eat—why wouldn’t you want your company’s name staring back at them through all that?

Related: How to make the most out of your pizza box

That’s why we’re seeing a lot of independent shops using stickers and labels to customize their otherwise plain pizza boxes and make them stand out from the pack without having to pay for custom boxes. Some use large labels that nearly cover the entire box top, while others rely on smaller stickers to do the job. We’re also seeing a lot of uniquely shaped stickers, made using a technique called die-cutting. Think starbursts, stars, unicorns or anything else.

Advances in digital printing have made it significantly less expensive to create oddly shaped prints, opening up a lot of possibilities for people to get creative with their designs. Now, we don’t know why you’d put a unicorn-shaped sticker on a pizza box, but we do know that people will recognize the pizza boxes with a unicorn on them—just like you know where a beverage cup emblazoned with golden arches comes from. That sort of recognition is what brands are built upon.

After a painful 2020, the pizza industry is bouncing back hard in 2021, and competition is stepping up as a result. Forecasters are suggesting that the pizza industry could see a 10% increase over last year’s numbers, which is a lot of dough, both figuratively and literally. However, it’s not enough of a bump to bring the industry back to its pre-pandemic numbers. That’s because even though independent pizzerias actually saw an increase in overall sales numbers, the lost sales at larger chains was enough to see the industry dip as a whole. The custom labels used by independent shops tell the story of creative marketers fighting for their piece of the market, while the nametags we’re sending to chain restaurants is a tangible sign that they are adding new hires as stores reopen their doors.

Related: 7 ways to unleash your pizza box’s marketing potential

In other words, 2021 is turning out to be a great year for pizza. Or, at least, it will be if you find ways to get your customers’ attention! Remember, after a year of quarantines and distancing, everything is going to feel new and exciting for the average consumer. You need to stand out, and if you’re still using a pizza box that looks like every other pizza box in town, that’s just not going to cut it anymore. It’s time to not just think outside the box, but to think about the outside of the box. Treat your pizza boxes like the advertisements they are, and you’ll reap the rewards in 2021 and beyond. And the best part of it is that you don’t need to order custom boxes to get the benefits.

Andrew Witkin is the founder and CEO of StickerYou, a global e-commerce leader in custom-printed, die-cut products that empowers consumers and businesses to create high-quality materials for personal expression, marketing and packaging.

Pizza News