For the past several years, pizzeria menus have been undergoing a revolution. While most pizza consists of three basic ingredients, operators are taking dough, sauce and cheese and, along with some added toppings, using them as a palette for increasingly creative dishes.
In the early part of the decade, many pizzerias began getting back to the roots of pizza, using ingredients imported from Italy and cooking them in old-style wood- or coal-burning ovens.
More recently, the focus has been on healthier options such as whole-wheat crusts, chicken toppings and a greater emphasis on vegetable toppings.
"As for the pizzeria, consumer trends are driving the demand for choice across the menu, to meet desire for alternatives that are better-for-you, better-for-the-environment; comforting, but not boring; new and different; customizable and convenient to order, said Liz Hertz, marketing director with precooked meats provider Burke Corp. (Read also, Consumers are seeking C.H.O.I.C.E.)
If anything can be said about the latest trends in pizzeria menus, though, it's that there is no clear trend. Pizza Marketplace polled pizzeria operators and consumers about the menu trends they're seeing. Here's what they had to say:
- Chris Chiapparelli, co-owner of Chip's Pizza in Forest Hill, Md.
- High quality, fresh ingredients compared with the standard canned or frozen items typically used by pizza shops.
- Pork, pork and more pork, especially bacon. "We use Benton's bacon and people can't seem to get enough."
- Innovation. The top selling specialty pizza is The Charlie. It features steak, caramelized onions, hot peppers, Mozzarella sticks and french fries on top of the pie.
- Bud Boswell, corporate executive chef and director of product development with Pizza Inn Restaurants
- Pizza trends for 2009-2010 appear to be geared toward a variety of different seasonal vegetables for pizza toppings. Inexpensive, locally grown and healthy.
- It also looks like the "wheat crust" is going to come back again like it did in 2006. BBQ and Buffalo will be the sauce "movers," and any type of protein will be accompanied with them. All appearances are that the beef market will stay low so we will see a variety of new beef ideas in the pizza industry.
- Most protein vendors are looking to do sauced shredded meats in order to get cost per ounce down.
- Seafood will dominate the high-end pizza experience along with artisan cheeses.
- Ilissa Rosoff, NadoLife Group, operators of Village Pizzeria
- Village Pizzeria, located in Coronado, Calif., includes a variety of funky cheeses in its pizza creations. Smoked mozzarella, aged provolone, goat cheese and gorgonzola are a few that customers have been asking for more and more.
- Also, with the summer season in full swing, garlic or olive oil based pizzas - minus the red sauce - are gaining popularity due to their lighter taste.
- Linda Pollock, Minnetonka, Minn., consumer
- "In the Minneapolis area, several local pizzerias are introducing gluten-free pizzas and are marketing them to people with Celiac disease. As someone with Celiac, I haven't been able to eat pizza out in over four years. I finally took my daughter, who also has Celiac, out for pizza for the first time."
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- Jonathan Fornaci , president of Straw Hat Pizza
- "On new toppings, we are following a lot of what you are seeing on the Food Network: fresh, natural, locally grown foods. For example a new topping is roasted red peppers, also mushrooms marinated in red wine vinegar. Simple staples for pizza, but we are spicing them up and moving them up the food chain.
- "We introduced a new appetizer a few months ago that is a huge hit. It is a green bean with a light bread coating, slightly spicy. It's very tasty and carries the perception that it is a healthier snack."
- Farm Sanctuary, a farm animal protection organization
- Vegan pizzas are the biggest trend happening in pizza right now. Consumer demand is sky-high. The owner of Cruzer Pizza in L.A. saw his overall sales soar 63 percent within the first month of introducing vegan pies with the new Daiya cheese alternative. Folks were driving from miles around and picking up three and four pies at a time.