From regional to rustic, pizza's hotter than ever. One reason: it's the perfect platform from which to meet the flavor and ingredient demands of customers.ngredient demands of customers.
Americans love pizza. According to foodservice-industry consultant Technomic, the average U.S. consumer eats pizza nearly three times per month; and some, much more often.
Technomic also says that 62 percent of the more than 1,500 polled say their most recent away-from-home pizza purchase was driven by a craving.
Americans' craving for pizza is hardly a new trend. So what is sparking interest now? Maria Caranfa, R.D., foodservice analyst for Mintel International Group, points to influences common to many menu favorites, not just pizza. “Rustic” is one motivation; a pizza that looks imperfectly formed suggests fresh, classic preps that hearken to the hand-tossing expertise of pizzaiolos of the Old Country and ethnic U.S. neighborhoods. In fact, authentic Neapolitan pizza is trending globally in 2010, according to Joseph Baum & Michael Whiteman Co., creator of high-profile restaurants around the world for hotels, major museums and other consumer destinations.
Caranfa also credits the re-emergence of classics and comfort foods in an economy still crawling out of recession; desire for familiar standbys with a modern twist (e.g., grilled pizza sporting trendy applewood-smoked bacon); a yearning for nostalgia (classic pepperoni that tastes like homemade); and demand for fine food, fast (not merely a mushroom pizza, but a portobello pizza with Boursin and Brie, created quickly thanks to a convenience-dough crust).
Still hot as well are pizza trends with legs from last year, such as downsized portions (who'd heard of pizzette before “small plates” got so big?) and “regional ethnic” (pizza topped with muffaletta ingredients à la New Orleans, and Greek-inspired pizzas popping up everywhere).
Proponents of wood- and coal-fired hearth-baking believe it's all about the heat and that has also sparked interest. Equipment manufacturers are rising to the occasion, finagling deck ovens so that operators need never contract a brick-layer to offer the taste of hearth-baked pizza. Many newer space-saving, gas deck ovens deliver the degrees and come complete with a hearth stone built in.
Close to one-fifth of consumers (17 percent) say that new items influence where they buy pizza, and that's particularly true of 18- to 24-year-olds, according to Technomic's study. Two out of five consumers (41 percent) say they would like healthier ingredients, examples being whole-wheat crusts, organic toppings, and all-natural and locally sourced ingredients. Heirloom tomato slices can empower a pizza, as can whole grains such as quinoa embedded in the crust.
“Positioning pizza as a meal solution that is easy, convenient and affordable will resonate with many consumers,” says Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic, who adds that differentiation through pizzas that feature unique flavors and taste combinations that consumers cannot purchase elsewhere or make at home can earn dividends. “Operators and suppliers will want to consider what they can do to add new pizza items to their menus and emphasize them through their marketing messages.”
Want some starter ideas? Turn the page…
Flatbread Pizza with Romesco Sauce, Portobellos, Mozzarella and Smoked Gouda
Paris Pizza with Portobello, Boursin, Brie & Grilled Chicken
Greek Isle-Style Smoked-Salmon Pizzette
Mango and Bacon Barbecue Pizza
Mediterranean Mashed-Potato & Fresh Herb Pizza
American Lamb Pizza Supreme
Veggie Wheat Pizza
Mild Provolone & Tomato Pizza
Classic Pepperoni Pizza
Wild Mushroom & Onion Pizza
Smoked-Turkey Mexican Pizza
Pizza del Giorno
Grilled Pizza with Bacon & Tomato
Sweet Vidalia Primavera Pizza