• Pizza Box Innovation

    Lessons We Can Learn From a Pizza

    Nov 4 • Behavioral Economics, Businesses, Demand, Supply, and Markets, Economic Humor, Economic Thinkers, Households, Innovation, Labor, Lifestyle, Tech, Thinking Economically • 149 Views

    When we order a pizza, there is a lot we don’t see. So today we will just think outside the (pizza) box.


    It’s tough to get rid of a pizza box. We can’t recycle the greasy bottom of the box because cardboard recycling is based on water that won’t mix with oil. We could recycle the top but most people don’t and a lot of cardboard still remains when we do. Or, like Smith College, you could try out plastic reusable pizza boxes (the idea did not work).

    The one solution that has potential is composting. At North Carolina State University, 16,000 greasy boxes became fertilizer because of pizza box dumpsters with massive pizza decals.


    Choosing between a small or large pizza, it helps to have a tape measure. A 16-inch pizza is four times as large as an 8-inch pie but you probably pay approximately twice as much. Below, you can see the math:

    A pizza box and prices


    And here NPR’s Planet Money compared the price per square inch to the pizza’s diameter. You can see that as the pizza gets larger, the price per square inch falls.

    Pizza lessons


    Most pizza boxes ruin the pizza. Because they are inappropriately vented, traditional pizza boxes soften the crust. To make it worse, as the pizza crust becomes soggy, it absorbs the taste of the paper.

    According to Wired, a Mumbai businessman has solved the problem. The winner of the best pizza box award (from Scott Weiner, a pizza box expert), Vinay Mehta created a box that lets the steam exit through an escape route at the top without affecting the pizza. His innovation was a “fluted middle layer” of cardboard that sends the steam along a different route.

    Our Bottom Line: The Visible and the Invisible

    Sometimes in economics, what we do not see is more important than what is visible. Describing the market, Adam Smith told us to imagine the invisible hand. For trade, Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman suggested that before levying a protective tariff to save a visible industry we recognize the harm to less visible exporters and consumers.

    Similarly, most of us do not see the environment, math and innovation when we order a pizza.

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  • economic news summary and military food innovation

    The Reason For Pizza With a Three-Year Shelf Life

    Nov 3 • Demand, Supply, and Markets, Economic Growth, Economic History, Economic Humor, Economic Thinkers, Innovation, Labor, Lifestyle, Macroeconomic Measurement, Regulation • 127 Views

    A twelfth century Mongol invader knew how to preserve food. Placed under a saddle, the rider’s meat was compressed by his bottom as it absorbed salty sweat from the horse below. Not an ideal preservation technique, salting as well as pickling, drying and smoking were all that armies could use to feed themselves until the late eighteenth century when canning was invented.

    Where are we going? To food innovation from the military.

    New Kinds of Army Food

    Armies on the move have always needed a mobile food supply. It took World War II though for the U.S. military to decide it had better have a big supply of MREs–Meals ready-to-eat–at all times. And that took an army of scientists.


    From: Amazon (Military surplus MREs)

    Near Boston, at the Natick Soldier Systems Center, scientists develop processed food. Explained by a Natick executive, “Our shelf life is three years at eighty degrees because combat rations are a war-stopper…When you go to war, you’ve got to bring your beans and your bullets.”

    MREs include beef patties and shelf-stable sandwiches that can sit at room temperature for two years. As a snack, Combos are an example. And for those of us who prefer pepperoni, Natick has a shelf-stable pepperoni taste alike called ozmoroni that can top the three-year shelf life pizza they are now developing.


    Technological innovation from shelf stable pizza

    From: 99 percent invisible

    Our Bottom Line: Technological Innovation

    Like all new technology, food processing innovation can serve as a growth engine that leads to Joseph Schumpeter’s creative destruction. So, when you think of non-stale bread, soft chocolate chip cookies, granola bars and a room temperature pizza with a three-year shelf life, remember military innovation and the Mongols on their horses.

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  • economic news summary and China's one-child

    Why China’s Two-Child Policy Might Not Work

    Nov 2 • Behavioral Economics, Demand, Supply, and Markets, Developing Economies, Economic History, Gender Issues, Government, Labor, Regulation • 162 Views

    With China saying that two children are now the limit rather than one, investment bank Credit Suisse predicts three to six million extra babies a year from 2017 to 2022. Translate that into baby products and you could have a $55 billion bump in sales…if it happens.

    Where are we going? To the impact of China’s family policies.

    Baby Product Markets

    If the current 1.5 per woman Chinese fertility rate increases then we could see a ripple of retail activity. Reflecting the possible impact, baby-related stocks spiked last week in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Shenzhen. The firms were what you would expect. A hospital group providing obstetrics, a car seat company, a maker of children’s skin care products each enjoyed a stock increase. In Japan, diaper makers upped their projections. Meanwhile, contraception stocks dipped.

    We should note though that last week’s announcement follows a 2013 policy change that had little impact. Even though China said then that any family with a spouse that was a single child could have two children, there was no baby boom. Consequently, baby formula maker Mead Johnson said it expected no major impact on “…births or birth rates in China, consistent with what we have seen in previous rounds of relaxation.”

    Our Bottom Line: Changing a Social Norm

    A behavioral economist might say China has a social norm that could be tough to change.

    Started more than 3 decades ago, the one-child policy has slowed the growth of the labor force and recently, for the first time, shrunk it.

    China one-child policy

    With the number of male births far exceeding females, the Chinese government has skewed markets ranging from real estate to marriage.

    China's one-child policy and male female ratios

    From: WSJ

    Below you can see population projections for 2050. If the new two-child policy has little effect, then there will be relatively fewer individuals in the working population to support those who are no longer employed. Or as Philip O’Keefe, human development sector coordinator at the World Bank in Beijing said in 2013, “For the first time we are seeing a country getting old before it has gotten rich.”

    population impact of China's single child policy

    From: populationpyramid.net

    Our conclusion? Accompanied by unintended consequences, China’s one-child social norm could be here to stay.

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  • economic news summary and Height Discrimination

    Why Your Height Matters

    Nov 1 • Behavioral Economics, Businesses, Labor, Thinking Economically • 159 Views

    If you want to be president, it helps to be tall.

    Of the 43 different people who have been president, only six were under 5’8″. To find the last president who was not a six-footer, we have to go back to Jimmy Carter at 5’9 1/2″, Meanwhile, for those who were shorter than 5’8″ like James Madison and John Adams, we can look at the nineteenth century when our average stature was smaller.

    You can see below that most of the 2016 presidential hopefuls are close to six feet although several of the shorter male and female candidates probably added a fictitious inch or two:

    height discrimination and politics

    From: U.S.News

    As for G-20 world leaders, there is more height variety:

    height discrimination

    From: the Daily Mail

    Where are we going? To the connection between height and success.

    When Height Matters

    Similar to other types of bias, tall people could be advantaged simply because of their height. Scholars call it height discrimination.

    However, it does depend on what we call tall. Based on military records, a typical male was 67 inches during the mid-1800s, close to 70 inches in 1955, and since then, stayed there. In 1939, an average forward on the University of Wisconsin’s basketball team was 6’1″. In 1999, he was 7 inches taller.

    Looking at leadership, performance and salary, researchers have found that taller people achieve more career success. Today an average six-footer will earn close to $165,000 more than someone who is 5’5″ during a 30 year period. That six-footer is also more likely to get a promotion, and yes, become a U.S. president.

    But we still are not sure why. Some have hypothesized that the esteem a taller individual develops as a teen affects future success. Others, connecting height and health, suggest taller people deserve the status because they have more cognitive abilIty. And a third group thought that we might even have an evolution related bias that equates physical prowess with power.

    Whatever the cause, we know that being tall is just one more ingredient in a success formula.

    Our Bottom Line: Human Capital

    Just like a factory owner increases physical capital with more equipment, we build our human capital by accumulating education, informal knowhow, and the psychological equipment that lets us optimize our potential. As a constraint or a springboard, height can affect our human capital…

    and help us become a U.S. president.

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  • The econlife.com economics news summary

    Weekly Roundup: From the Diner’s Dilemma to Lost Labor

    Oct 31 • Developing Economies, Economic Thinkers, Environment, Government, Labor, Lifestyle, Macroeconomic Measurement, Money and Monetary Policy, Regulation, Thinking Economically, Uncategorized • 105 Views

    Posts Roundup

    economic news summary and Brooklyn and gentrification Sunday 10.25.15

    What Brooklyn means…more

    Economics news summary and the Phillip's Curve Monday 10.26.15

    A graph that can change our mortgage rate…more

    economic news summary and China's five year plan Tuesday 10.27.15

    A sing-along song from China…more

    economic news summary and unemployment Wednesday 10.28.15

    Locating our missing workers…more

    econoic news summary and property rights in outer space Thursday 10.29.15

    The laws we need for outer space…more


    Splitting the Check Friday 10.30.15

    When to split the check equally…more

    Ideas Roundup

    • externalities
    • marginal analysis
    • marginal cost
    • tragedy of the commons
    • property rights
    • unemployment,
    • participation rate
    • command economy,
    • market economy
    • traditional economy
    • middle income trap
    • inflation rate
    • quantitative easing
    • monetary policy
    • inequality,poverty
    • gentrification


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