Pizza executives reflect on the top menu stories of the year

It is in our nature to reflect on the year as a new one approaches. And we've tried to do just that — pulling together 2013's top stories from the menu, as well as the top stories that had nothing to do with food at all.

We think we have (at least try to have) a unique perspective, covering the pizza industry as news releases pour in constantly, tradeshows come and go and feature ideas come to fruition. But we also wanted to get a pulse from those whose hands are most firmly on the beat of this dynamic, popular and fast-paced industry. Here are the biggest culinary trends from 2013 from restaurant executives' point-of-view:

Biggest pizza menu trends from 2013

"Customization and speed." – Lori Walderich, co-founder, Top That! Pizza.

"The whole fast casual pizza industry really blew up in 2013. Also, gluten-free has been a big trend." – Drew French, founder, Your Pie.

"Put simply, big, bold flavors. Whether in the 'better burger,' sandwich or pizza categories, I think we are seeing brands continue to push the needle by delivering customers unexpected and innovative flavor profiles that surprise, yet please their taste buds." – Scott Iverson, VP of Marketing, Toppers Pizza.

"We've seen an explosive growth in our gluten-free menu items. At this point, we don't like to call it a 'trend.' When you see big brands like Betty Crocker offering gluten-free options, it's becoming more of a lifestyle choice rather than a trend." - Adam Goldberg, co-founder, Fresh Brothers.

"The biggest trend in pizza in 2013 wasn't so much the food, but how it's delivered. We saw a definite trend toward fast casual service." – Gail Lozoff, co-owner, SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza.

"The biggest pizza trend has been the boom in customization, which results in a customer-centric, co-created meal, and super fast pizza." – Scott Svenson, co-founder and CEO of MOD Pizza.

"Deep dish pizza. We saw many in the pizza segment introduce deep dish or pan-style pizzas in 2013." – Steven Jackson, president/CEO, Hungry Howie's Pizza.

"What I've found to be trendy this year is the interest in quick/casual pizza. However, consumers will find that speed doesn't necessarily translate to quality with every quick-fire pizza concept." – Bill Freeman, CEO, Patxi's Pizza.

"The hottest trend in the pizza industry is made-to-order chains. It's an interesting concept that gives the consumer the opportunity to build their own pizza. This is actually the core of the traditional pizza business, and a premise as old as pizza itself. But a clever twist for this concept is the instant gratification for the customer. I would also include fresh, from farm-to-table, gluten-free and locally-grown. People are becoming more health conscious and looking for healthy choices." – Marla Topliff, president, Rosati's Pizza.

"Gluten-free offerings have become more mainstream for more and more restaurants. Chains have identified current products they already offer — which are gluten-free — and added new products that speak to the growing health trends around gluten-free and celiac support. Additionally, pretzel breads have been a growing trend, which offer a unique texture and saltiness to non-traditional 'pretzel' items like buns and appetizers." – Cody Pierce, VP of Marketing, Pizza Ranch.

We also asked pizza executives to forecast trends — both on and off the menu — for 2014. Keep an eye on PizzaMarketplace.com on Friday to read their predictions.

Read more about trends and statistics.

Photo provided by Flickr user Mai Le.

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