Pizza may have originated in Italy, but it has become uniquely Americanized over the last century. Whether New York style, Chicago deep dish, thin & crispy or hand tossed, America’s love affair with pizza is still strong. Forbes estimates that Americans spend billion a year on pizza, even putting it on their 12 Hottest Food Trends for 2014 list. With 75 percent of consumers eating pizza twice a month or more, according to Technomic Inc., and 55 percent report eating at fast casual pizza concepts monthly, it’s not surprising that the pizza category is bubbling with potential for 2015 and beyond. While nostalgia still draws consumers in, they are demanding more than the traditional pie and the marketplace is responding.
What was once a category of standard one style of crust, pizza sauce and traditional toppings like pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, peppers etc. has now evolved to variety reigning supreme (and that’s not just toppings). From crust options, sauce diversity – basil to buffalo, an assortment of cheeses, freshly grated mozzarella to feta and fresh toppings like spinach that is locally sourced, just about anything goes on today’s pies.
Customization is King – Like with many other segments in foodservice, customization has become vital to increasing customer loyalty. The pizza industry has always been the king of customizable meals, but is now rising to the challenge to create even greater options for customizable pies including non-traditional crust options, greater assortment in toppings like roasted eggplant, cheeses beyond mozzarella and LTO’s featuring local or regional fare.
Crust Craze – Thin, hand tossed, New York Style, and Chicago Deep Dish are all part of the consumer pizza vocabulary and have been for several years, but today’s pizza patron is moving beyond these traditional crust offerings. Artisan crust options are on the rise including those with cheese baked in, whole wheat, gluten free and additional flavor profiles baked into the crust. At Pizza Hut® customers can now choose from a variety of non-traditional crust options like pretzel dough or a honey sriracha as part of their pizza customization experience.
Sauce Spectacle – Sauce is anything but standard in today’s pizza universe. Conventional tomato based pizza sauce, while still a staple, is advancing to the next level. With the proliferation of locally produced and fresh herbs like basil, oregano and garlic, operators are now able to make their signature sauce just a little fresher. New sauce offerings made with Sriracha or Buffalo add a kick to any pizza experience, but have also blazed the way for adding cold ingredients like arugula and spinach to balance flavor profiles and finish the pizza.
Topping Trends - As tastes evolve, so do consumer expectations of the pizza industry. A recent Zagat survey found that traditional toppings like pepperoni and sausage still top the list of favorite toppings, but many of the standards are getting a makeover with the proliferation of higher quality options and local sourcing. 74 percent of consumers say a wide variety of toppings are important for creating a good pizza and 84 percent say fresh toppings make a great pizza (Technomic Inc.). Items like pan roasted chicken, prosciutto, capers, fennel seeds, caramelized onions, sun dried tomatoes and more allow customers to customize a pizza that is healthier and higher quality.
Beyond Conventional – Breakfast and dessert are not dayparts typically associated with this category. Pizza for breakfast is typically enjoyed right out of the refrigerator by college students, or time pressed professionals who don’t have time to grab breakfast. Dessert is associated with cookies, brownies and other baked goods. But as consumers look for new and inventive ways to enjoy one of their favorite foods, breakfast and dessert pizzas are popping up on menus. “We have experienced operators looking for new revenue opportunities in the pizza category. Breakfast and dessert offerings with toppings like fresh fruit and yogurt appeal to consumers for multiple reasons and allow operators to expand into new dayparts,” explains Manitowoc Foodservice Corporate Chef, Kim Miller-Boivin.
Whether traditional or a pie of their own design, consumers are expecting more when they order their favorite pizza and operators are responding to the demand with options that abound.