Predictions for Pizza

Pizza has been one of several heroes of late – not only a fast, crowd-pleasing, affordable meal with a history of contactless order and delivery – but the only U.S. restaurant type able to “maintain or increase sales during the pandemic”.[1]

So what’s next for America’s #1 favorite food – the one 9 in 10 claim to love or like, and nearly 7 in 10 have eaten within the past week?[2] We’ve scoured both restaurant and retail to uncover the following:

Crust Wars

Just as quick-serve restaurants are currently scrambling to produce the ultimate chicken sandwich, we believe pizza masters will compete for “the next cauliflower crust”. Emerging trends suggest:

Protein-driven. Keto-friendly crusts made mostly of meat, e.g. Foster Farms Smart Crust made of chicken breast, egg whites and cheese[3] and Uno’s No-Dough Sausage Pie, where a foundation of sausage is pressed into a pan, par-baked and cooled to create a ‘crust’.[4]

Bakery-inspired. Reimagining crusts through the lens of other, popular doughs. Nestle has introduced a DiGiorno Croissant Crust Pizza they claim delivers on cravings for comfort[5] and 7-Eleven boasts a biscuit-crust breakfast offering.[6]

International intrigue. New bases and toppings inspired by regional favorites. Earlier this year, Pizza Hut Taiwan partnered with a local, Japanese restaurant to create a Ramen Pizza complete with a noodle ‘crust’ and traditional ramen toppings like pork slices, sesame, chilis and a soft-boiled egg.[7]

Crust-less. The bowl concept, with sauce, cheese and toppings layered over a bed of spinach.

Functional Cheese

While yogurt has long been making functional claims through probiotics, examples of new health claims in cheese are bubbling to the surface. Case in point? Caputo Cheese launch of Elevated Cow – a mozzarella infused with CBD said to be a “new experience in cheese”.[8] Will we see it on pizza? Only time will tell.

Dip & Drizzle Cups

Garlic butter, make room. There’s demand for new “side sauces” to enhance the experience. Check out Mike’s Hot Honey in a to-go offering developed for pizzerias “to safely and efficiently deliver product, while adding incremental revenue to each order.”[9]

Pizzeria Wine Bars

Dubbed an “expanding American pizza and wine scene”, operators are creating concepts married to “a killer wine list” with all-inclusive tastings, Pizza and Champagne Parties, and opportunities to learn more about the perfect pairings.[10]

With pizza such a recognizable (and somewhat predictable) staple, we recommend not only considering the above inspiration for tweaks, but pushing harder to disrupt into buzz-worthy territory. Thought starters? Borrow even more from baked goods for ways to increase the sensorial experience. Consider visually vibrant ingredients baked into dough (herbs, olives, etc.) or experimenting with emerging flours (e.g. chickpea, popcorn, mesquite, and coffee). Deconstruct sandwiches and reengineer as pies. Create LTOs incorporating trending, bottled sauces. Play around with “bite-sized” concepts. Design for dessert. Embrace the idea of “served cold”. Partner with beverage makers, bars or liquor stores to create ultimate pairings and digital content. In summary, maintain the authentic and tried and true, but carve out time for creativity to test and learn on ways to deliver the unexpected.

[1] “How restaurants can thrive in the next normal”, McKinsey & Company, 5/20
[2] “Foodbytes”, Datassential, 8/18
[3] “Chicken-crust frozen pizza launches nationwide from Foster Farms”, FoodDive, 6/23/20
[4] “Keto-friendly, high-protein pizza crusts emerge as a trend at restaurant chains”, 3/17/20
[5] “Leftovers: DiGiorno delivers pizza with a croissant crust”, FoodDive, 6/26/30
[6] “Inside the pizza market’s continued growth”, Food Business News, 4/10/20
[7] “Would you try this ramen pizza in Taiwan?” Lonely Planet, 2020
[8] “The top pizza trends in 2020”, Supermarket Perimeter, 3/25/20
[9] “Mike’s Hot Honey Launches Dip Cups”, Deli Market News, 6/23/20
[10] “Pizza Joints Have Become Hotbeds for Cutting-Edge Wine”, Wine Magazine, 2020