Variety is not only the spice of life, but it’s also driving frozen pizza sales, especially during the colder winter season. For instance, Milwaukee-based Palermo Villa Inc. has rolled out a beer-infused crust for its indulgent, heavily topped Screamin’ Sicilian line, Za’Brewski Pizza, made with Leinenkugel’s Original.

“As far as toppings and sauce, we are pushing the envelope with new dessert items and unique fun flavors,” Nick Fallucca, chief product and innovation officer for Palermo Villa, told Baking & Snack for its December report on pizza trends.

Palermo stepped outside the pizza box, offering its Orange Chicken Overload and Totally Taco Screamin’ Sicilian Pizzas, as well as two dessert pizza flavors, Smores and Cookie Brownie. Consumers also selecting more authentic sauces with bold, classic flavors.

A survey by Technomic indicated that 51% of consumers preferred tomato marinara while 41% enjoyed garlic parmesan sauce on their pizzas. When comparing pizza sauce options, most consumers preferred a balance of sauce characteristics that lean toward heavy (30%), savory (37%) and chunky (27%) options. Of course, the classic toppings still reign in this category with 62% preferring pepperoni, and it is growing in appeal as the protein topping of choice on menus across segments.

However, Technomic reported that vegetable-forward pizzas are trending and can be positioned as a way for consumers to reduce meat consumption or as an innovative option. Mushrooms and onions were the top two vegetable toppings preferred at 56% and 53%, respectively.

For pizza producers and the baking industry, spicing up the category is all about adding a creative twist to something that is both familiar and popular with consumers.