Paper containers made to transport meals, beverages, dry snacks and other life necessities (late-night pizza, anyone?) serve a pretty basic function. But some product packaging also contains hidden “hacks” that take them from commonplace to who-thought-of-that? clever.
Whether built-in or unintentional, these packaging design features make eating a little easier—and they have the potential to impress your dining companions. Here are seven food packaging tricks to know:
Fast food fry boxes have a ketchup flap
The internet lost its mind in January when a Twitter user pointed out that the top half of many fast-food fry boxes can be folded back, making room for a dollop of ketchup. The humble hack probably wasn’t the company’s intention—but it is certainly handy.
Juice box “handles” ensure steady sipping
Sure, the single-serving vessels are already meant to be gripped. But a hard squeeze (from tiny, unpracticed fingers, for instance) can send contents flying from a straw like a choreographed water fountain show. Lift up the two flaps at the top and ask your kids to hold the box by its “wings.”
Condiment cups allow bigger dunks
The petite cups that hold ketchup and other sauces are great for dipping a few fries or a single tater tot. Try to submerge anything larger, and it’s a no-go. Fortunately, their packaging design allows containers to expand to accommodate that monster plunge: Tug on the rolled top edges and pull outward.
Chinese food boxes can become platters
The takeout boxes, though iconic, often leave hungry patrons digging for remnants at the bottom—or splattering contents as they dole out shared portions. No longer: Unhook the top clasp, then pull apart the side folds. Voilà, the accordion-like design collapses into a plate.
Pizza boxes can be broken into plates
There’s no questioning the core utility of a pizza box. But few may realize that the sturdy workhorse can do double duty. Rip off the lid, fold it into quarters and tear at the creases to produce four disposable plates. The bottom of the box can be folded in half to store leftovers.
Collapsible bags offer cooking capability
Gluten-free oat and oatmeal product maker GF Harvest LLC takes the mess out of prep work: Its paper and paperboard GoPack oatmeal bags transform from slim pouches into sturdy microwaveable bowls. The company also sells muffin mix that can be nuked right in the package.
Mini cereal boxes double as bowls
Kids of the 1980s who enjoyed the single-serving treats may recall perforated lines forming an “H” shape on one side of the box. The intent? Cutting through them (and the bag’s top layer) to create a bowl. Today, those lines are gone, but careful slicing gets the same result. Just add milk.