DUIVEN, THE NETHERLANDS – From gourmet toppings to gluten-free crusts, the pizza market has trended beyond traditional in recent years, according to research from Innova Market Insights.
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Flatbreads represent a large slice of new product activity during the first half of 2013, according to Lu Ann Williams, director of Innova Market Insights, adding that this slimmer style often delivers “upscale flavors.” Examples include a mushroom and black truffle flatbread from Trader Joes and a creamy spinach and goat cheese flatbread from Palermo’s.
Restaurants, too, have tossed flatbread-style pizzas on the menu. This year’s launches include Italian-style flatbreads from the Fazoli’s chain, as well as Pizza Hut’s Firebaked Style Flatbread Pizzas, which feature a slightly crispy wood-fired style crust and edge-to-edge toppings.
“We wanted to give our fans a lighter crust experience that doesn’t skimp on flavor and believe we’ve delivered that with our Firebaked Style Flatbread Pizzas,” said Kurt Kane, chief marketing officer at Pizza Hut. “We take pride in our food innovation chops. Our latest creation is yet another example of how we pay close attention to what consumers want and bring it to them in a very accessible, convenient and value-focused way.”
Additionally, Chili’s Grill & Bar recently reported a favorable performance from its platform of flatbread pizzas, which includes margherita, chipotle chicken and California grilled chicken varieties.
The flatbread category bubbles up from the recent artisan pizza movement and a trend toward more casual dining, said Kara Nielsen, a trend researcher with the San Francisco-based CCD Innovation.
“It’s a great shareable appetizer,” Ms. Nielsen said. “You can offer it both with a variety of vegetarian and savory meat toppings. And because it’s flatbread and not pizza, you can get really creative and make a flatbread that suits the brand, whether it’s a slightly more healthful one or a slightly more decadent one.”
Also hot in pizzas are gluten-free claims, which were featured in 10% of U.S. launches in the past year, according to Innova. This month, General Mills, Inc., introduced Pillsbury gluten-free thin crust pizza dough.
Complex, upmarket and spicy toppings have popped up on more pies, too. Earlier this year, Papa Murphy’s introduced a Primo Line of take-and-bake pizza featuring such gourmet ingredients as goat cheese, fennel sausage, arugula and prosciutto. In the frozen aisle, DiGiorno, a Nestle U.S.A. brand, launched pizzeria-style products made with a drizzle of olive oil and toppings like caramelized onions, Genoa salami and pecorino romano cheese. The Schwan Food Co. dished up new Freschetta frozen pizzas made with olive oil and sea salt, as well as new Red Baron offerings, including a pizza topped with spicy pepperoni, jalapenos and a chipotle sauce.
“The retail pizza market has benefited more than most from the financial downturn, offering an attractive option in times of increased financial pressure, with consumers able to buy in advance for social nights in, as a cheaper alternative to home delivery, takeaways and eat-in restaurants,” Ms. Williams said.