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Who is leading the way in Pizza innovation?

Tell me if you think these products represent pizza innovation: bread sticks, wings (both bone-in and boneless) stuffed cheese crust, and stuffed pizza and cheese crust? It's a shame these products are the only new products in the pizza category, when the opportunity exists for more true innovation – when the large pizza chains could be leading the way.

In a 2009 Harvard Business Press book titled "The Innovator's Toolkit: 10 Practical Strategies to Help You Develop and Implement Innovation," it lists five myths about creativity. Myth No. 4 is "creativity is a solitary act."

The book states that although some of our country's greatest innovations have been the result of individual creativity, a high percentage of the world's most important inventions and technical breakthroughs are products of collaboration among groups of people with complementary skills. An example of individual innovation is Isaac Newton's stunning theories of calculus, optics and gravity that he developed while living on his family farm. On the other hand, Thomas Edison, the most prolific inventor of his time, did not work alone but at the center of a large number of technicians, mechanics and assistants – his famous "Insomnia Brigade," so named for their habit of working into the small hours of the morning. In other words, large corporations have tremendous staff diversity that could be harnessed against the need for new product innovation.

New Product Innovation: Pizza Cones

To discover the origin of "Pizza Cones," take look south toward Brazil and east to New York City. I was talking with a Brazilian attorney staying in our home recently when the topic of food surfaced. He asked me if I had ever heard of Pizza Cones or Temaki Sushi Cones. He believes that Pizza Cones were created in Bauru, Brazil, after the successful launch of Temaki Sushi Cones – although it could be debated whether Pizza Cones originated in Brazil, Portugal, or Italy.

Temaki Sushi and Pizza Cones provide the portability and fun of favorite food items. Pizza Cones are sold by a New York restaurant called K! Pizzacone, which was started in 2010 by a former Lisbon, Portugal, banker. The dough cones are shipped to Pinto daily from a Connecticut bakery, and each Pizzacone is made to order at the counter; you tell them what ingredients to add, and then it's cooked in the oven for 5 minutes. And by the way, you won't find Pizza Cones (or mini-pizza cones) at Pizza Hut, Dominos, Papa John's, etc. Interestingly, pizza cone franchisee opportunities are beginning to explode.

Other Pizza New Product Innovations

A few additional pizzas that you might find coming to a location near you are:

  • Slippery-Cheese Pie by Eataly (New York)
  • Roberta's Pizza, Madison Square Market, New York, made with a portable brick pizza oven
  • Flame grilled pizza, Dave's Grilled Pizza at Balahoosta (New York)
  • The Cortes (Burrito) Pizza at Roberta's Pizza (New York)
  • The Black Truffle Pizza at The Mark (New York)
  • The Mac and Cheese Pizza at Rev'd Up Pie (New York)

Mobile Wood-Fired Pizza Oven Innovation

Mugnaini, based out of Watsonville, Calif., seems to be leading the way in mobile pizza ovens (www.mugnaini.com). The Big Green Truck Pizza Company was the first privateer to place a Mugnaini wood fired pizza oven on a truck in 2004. In six short years, the novelty of wood-fired mobile ovens has spread to include numerous models of ovens depending on size, appearance and functionality. Mugnaini's ovens include three-layered insulation/thermal mass technology that is locked in place yet still maintains resiliency due to expansion joints in the crown.

Innovative Pizza Food Trucks

Streetza (www.streetza.com) is probably the most well-known gourmet pizza in the United States. Streetza pizzas are prepared using the best locally grown produce, zesty spices, finest Wisconsin mozzarella and other seasonal items. Each pizza is hand stretched and baked in a 650-degree specially-designed oven. Another famous mobile pizza catering company is called The Big Green Pizza company (www.biggreenpizza.com).

But what makes pizza food trucks so exciting is that they don't have any curbs on new product or equipment innovation. Mobile food retailing has already ignited a whole new product technology for mobile pizza ovens. And mobile food venues are also becoming the leader for innovative new pizza products.

Please contact me at dsuderman@foodbevbiz.com or follow the Food Innovation Institute website (www.foodbevbiz.com) for more information on our 2011 Food Innovation Workshops, June 20-22.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Scott Baitinger
    91744517
    Thank you for including us in your article. Make sure to check out some of the crazy pizza we've been making lately too. Crab Leg Pizza, Peeps Pizza, Creme Brulee Pizza. They are actually delicious and it give people something interesting to talk / tweet about. - Scott - Streetza Pizza
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Darrel Suderman
Darrel Suderman, Ph.D., is president of Food Technical Consulting and founder of Food Innovation Institute. He has held senior R&D/QA leadership positions at KFC, Boston Market, Church's Chicken and Quiznos and led KFC’s development team of “Popcorn Chicken”, now a $1B international product –invented by Gene Gagliardi.
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