The Pink Doughnut Boxes With an Unexpected History

September 21, 2017

This past May, the Los Angeles Times looked beyond the highways and green juices to clue us into something else covering the city of Los Angeles. Something sweet. Something… pink.

It turns out, Los Angeles is dotted with candy-colored pink boxes stuffed with everyone’s favorite deep-fried sweet treat: doughnuts. CNN’s Great Big Story also caught on. They released a video that dives deep into the trend and its fascinating history.

Like anything good, the boxes are not without story. They are actually the cotton candy–colored legacy of Ted Ngoy, a Cambodian refugee who moved to the States in the 1970s and opened a doughnut shop. He began to sell his sweet treats in the distinctly colored boxes. Over the years, Ngoy helped many an entrepreneur open his or her own doughnut business. Each new store took both mentorship and the pink boxes from Ngoy. Until the entire city was carpeted with doughnuts and their signature packaging.

Shop the Story

Today, the memory of Ngoy lives on in the sweet taste of DK's Donuts, and the pale pink boxes they come packaged in at dozens of other doughnut shops across the city.

Have you tried an LA doughnut? And did it come in a pink box? If you’ve been privy to the pink, let us know about it in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • marc510
  • AntoniaJames
  • Harry Fuller
    Harry Fuller
Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.


marc510 September 22, 2017
I loved the LA Times article because I had been wondering about the pink boxes for a long time. I had a hunch it was something unplanned, and their reporting about the box cost difference confirmed my hunch. So often the origin of icons is unplanned at the time.

A regional data point: pink boxes are a thing in the San Francisco area too. 10+ years ago when I worked in an East Bay office that had frequent boxes of donuts brought in for one reason or another, they were always pink.

A few years ago the California Sunday Magazine had a great story about one of the giants of the California donut business, Ted Ngoy, who once had more than 50 shops in Southern California.
AntoniaJames September 21, 2017
But you don't address the most interesting question, to my mind: why are the boxes pink?! The LA Times article (a deeper dive than the CNN video) reports that back then, pink boxes were cheaper. The enterprising donut purveyors realized that if they skimped on cheaper ingredients, the doughnuts would suffer, but a cheaper box would not be noticed, or cared about, by the customers. ;o)
Harry F. September 21, 2017
Not in LA, but in Portland, Oregon, Voodoo Dougnut has pink boxes stamped "Good things come in pink boxes". And, they are right.