Papa John's gluten-free crust goes national ... and back to prehistory

Papa John's gluten-free crust goes national ... and back to prehistory

Sometimes you have to go way back to get ahead in today's restaurant business. That's exactly what Papa John's has done with its new gluten-free, wheatless crust, made from — among other things — one of the first plants to be domesticated by humans, some 8,000 years before the common era. 

Papa John's is now serving the crust nationally after first testing it in five major American cities over the last half year. The gluten-free variety is made from Ancient Grains' blend of sorghum, teff, amaranth and quinoa and contains more protein and some deep, earthy flavors born out of the combined grains, a news release said.

It was tested earlier this year in Los Angeles, Phoenix, St. Louis, Houston and Nashville, where Papa John's said it actually drove an increase in new customers to the brand. 

Just on background, of the four grains in the crust, teff is an Ethiopian staple that was domesticated between 8,000 and 5,000 B.C., making it one of the first products humans ever farmed, according to author Dennis Murphy in his 2007 book, People, Plants, and Genes: The Story of Crops and Humanity. Likewise, Amaranth is a staple of Central and South America that was used prolifically by the ancient Aztecs, as reported in Science magazine. 

For consumers, the availability of a gluten-free crust option was a leading factor in deciding where to order their pizzas, according to Mintel research, which found that gluten-free food sales grew 178 percent from 2013 to 2016.

"Eating a gluten-free crust doesn't have to mean eating a bland, tasteless product," Papa John's Chief Ingredient Officer Sean Muldoon, said in the release. "Our gluten-free crust took more than two years to develop and perfect because taste and texture were key factors in the dough development. The fact that our pilot customers told us they loved the taste proves that we made the right decisions."

Operationally, Papa John's employs procedures to prevent contact with gluten, and while the crust is prepared in a separate, gluten-free facility before being shipped to stores, it is possible that a pizza with gluten-free crust could be exposed to gluten during the in-store, pizza-making process. Therefore, the brand does not recommend its gluten-free crust made with Ancient Grains for customers with celiac disease or a serious gluten intolerances.

Photo: iStock

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Customer Service / Experience, Food Safety, Health & Nutrition, Hot Products

Companies: Papa John's

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