Menomonie, Wis. — Four University of Wisconsin-Stout packaging majors believe they have built a better pizza box. Their innovative design is recyclable, reusable, versatile and even helps pizza taste better.

The Institute of Packaging Professionals was impressed too. The design, Project Saucy, took first place in the student category of the recent IoPP AmeriStar national packaging competition, considered North America’s most prestigious packaging contest. The students received their award Tuesday, May 10, at an IoPP banquet in Rosemont, Ill. They are Scott Evers, of Kimberly; Kayla Finnessy, of Hubertus; Kyle Kozlowski, of Two Rivers; and Nathaniel Nelson, of Shell Lake.

“We just started brainstorming after we got the assignment and came up with this. We really liked our concept,” said Evers, adding that team members had plenty of experience with pizza boxes as consumers. After surveying local students and pizza restaurants to help develop their ideas, team members worked through about 10 prototypes in the university packaging lab before hitting on the winner, Evers said.

What’s so good about the design?

• It’s recyclable. Most pizza boxes aren’t recyclable because they’re stained with pizza residue, such as grease and sauce. The residue can contaminate the recycling slurry and damage machinery.

To make the Project Saucy box recyclable, a two-ply paper liner is lightly adhered to the bottom of the box, protecting the corrugated board. The liner can be peeled off after the pizza is removed.

In addition, the box is made entirely from recycled corrugated board and the liner is biodegradable.

• It’s reusable. Project Saucy team members had eaten enough pizzas to know that when the leftovers go in the refrigerator, the partially empty box wastes space. They added perforation lines to the box so it easily can be cut in half to store, say, half a pizza.

• It’s commercially friendly. Because the box is made of identical top and bottom pieces, restaurants can stock one box and divide it for small side orders, like chicken wings or breadsticks.

• It’s customer friendly. The team added vents to the sides of the box to release moisture buildup. This helps prevent the crust from getting soggy and releases tantalizing smells.

The project came from the Package Development class taught by Professor Robert Meisner. The assignment was to redesign an existing package. This is the first year UW-Stout has entered the third annual AmeriStar student competition.

“What impressed me about the design is its functionality and cost effectiveness,” Meisner said. “This package is certainly something that could be produced and used commercially, and I believe it would give that company a marketing advantage due to the sustainability aspects of the package design.”

One company already has contacted the Project Saucy team to learn more about the design, Meisner said.

As an AmeriStar winner, Project Saucy received $1,000 and automatically has been entered in a worldwide professional competition. Team members are looking to patent their idea, Evers said. The student category drew 33 entries from around the country. Teams from the University of Cincinnati and California Polytechnic State University took second and third, respectively.  Four teams received honorable mentions, including two from UW-Stout for Contact Stack and SUDS Stickpack.

Contact Stack is a slim vertical tube that holds a supply of contact lenses in stackable containers. Team members are Kevin Byrne, of Eau Claire; Elizabeth Mitchell, of Clintonville; Matt Sampson, of Centuria; and Rachel Wisth, of Rubicon.

SUDS Stickpack is a box containing 60 single-load packets of laundry soap. Team members are Autum Joe Price, of Hugo, Minn.; Andy Rusin, of Menasha; Aaron Strebel, of De Pere; and Kevin Welle, of Eagan, Minn.

One of the other honorable mention awards went to a Michigan State University team that had an idea similar to Project Saucy, a pizza box that can be ripped in half.

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