Meet the man behind the world's best pizza box

Feb 02, 2014, 10:06 IST | Kareena N Gianani

Turns out that the world’s best-designed pizza box comes not from Italy, but a Parel-based businessman. Kareena N Gianani meets Vinay Mehta, whose pizza box, VENTiT, made the cut amid 650 pizza delivery boxes from 45 countries

Before you meet Vinay Mehta, know that you will end up conducting some curious experiments at his Parel office. One involves placing incense sticks in pizza boxes and the other, jumping on a suitcase-sized corrugated box. With three other adults.

Don’t let the smoke in the picture spook you. Vinay Mehta explains how the heat escaping from his pizza box makes it the best delivery box in the world

Mehta is your typical businessman who works with packaging and printing, but there's nothing ordinary about how he has revolutionised how pizza is home-delivered across the world. Two weeks ago, New York-based pizza aficionado, Scott Wiener adjudged Mehta's box as most effective when it comes to delivering fresh, crisp pizzas. Wiener, who conducts pizza-based tours in the US, came to the conclusion after examining 650 pizza boxes from 45 countries. He is also the author of Viva La Pizza! The Art Of The Pizza Box, which chronicles pizza delivery boxes designed around the world.

Mehta, who is rather self-effacing, admits that he hasn't read Wiener's praise online yet. ''I was tired of eating chewy, sweaty and soggy pizzas delivered home,” he says with a smile, and adds that this own frustration led him to design VENTiT (the pizza box), which has brought him unexpected fame.

It happened on a drive between Mumbai and Pune. Mehta sat in his car with a sheet of a corrugated cardboard box (Mehta has been working with them since 35 years), and a pen knife. In 30 minutes, he had designed what would go on to become the world's best pizza box. Interestingly, VENTiT does not add new material to the existing box design — it simply re-imagines it and opens up new windows, quite literally.

''The problem with the existing design is the lack of ventilation — steam generated in the box is trapped inside and condenses on the pizza, and compromising the freshness.” But what about the holes often found on one side of the box? ''They are useless, actually. The heat which renders home-delivered pizzas soggy and tasteless is released from the top and the bottom of the pizza, not the sides. The heat released from the crust, for instance, remains trapped,” says Mehta.

A corrugated cardboard sheet explains Mehta, has three layers. ''I just separated these layers, create flaps and exposed the porous middle sheet. Now, the additional steam from a fresh pizza can escape from it.” The key, explains Mehta, is the simultaneous ventilation and insulation provided to the pizza with the help of this design.

To illustrate his point, Mehta inserts incense in VENTiT and another pizza box. In spite of the holes at the side, steam does escape through the regular pizza box, but when we turn to Mehta's box, we see spirals of smoke coming through. ''It isn't rocket science — any homemaker will tell you — you never seal chapattis immediately after they come off the gas. You wait for the heat to escape for it to stay fresh.”

Mehta points to the smoke escaping his box and smiles. This delivery box design is not limited to pizza boxes alone — Mehta has created similar packaging for parathas, frankies and Indian dishes delivered in those tubs by restaurants. Mehta's boxes are supplied across India and Dubai today (40 pizza brands use his boxes in Mumbai alone). Smokin' Joe's, Pizza Metro Pizza and Francesco's Pizzeria use VENTiT, too.

Mehta also has other designs in mind. He is now working on — wait for it — suitcases made of corrugated cardboard box. He points to a funky, neon orange suitcase at the corner of the room and reads the question in our eyes — a suitcase made of cardboard?

That's when Mehta pulls it out and stands atop. He asks two adult male colleagues and this reporter to join. Then, well, we jump. The suitcase doesn't sweat. It is lighter than nylon and polycarbonate suitcases, too. ''You can't damage them, you can't run a knife through them,” says Mehta before we can think of possible caveats.

''This is eco-friendly, light, and you can pack your world in it without worrying what all that rough handling at airports or in trains will do to fragile items inside,'' says Mehta. ''This is also cheaper than nylon and polycarbonate luggage, and I am going to customise it for travellers.'' And that takes care of our daydream of wandering around the world, a Van Gogh suitcase in tow.

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