Pizzamakers are feeding consumers’ appetites for better-for-you (BFY) pies with healthier crusts, vegan options and more. 

Pizzas that list the number of calories per slice are performing well, and vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free pizza claims are all growing in units and dollars, said Sally Lyons Wyatt said, executive vice president and practice leader, IRI.

“The plant-based trend cannot be ignored,” Datassential stated in its 2022 Pizza Keynote Report. “The term plant-based has soared on menus in recent years, and consumers are looking for everything from plant-based meats to more vegetable-forward pizzas to experiment with.”

Vegan is the fastest-growing pizza type by far, the report found, surging 187% on menus in the past three years. Gluten-free pizzas are growing too, currently on 11.4% of menus and projected to grow another 27% in the next four years. 

DiGiorno offers gluten-free pizzas in Pepperoni and Four Cheese varieties.

“Our gluten-free offerings are slated to be a larger focus in the future as we continue to deliver on our promise to provide a no-taste difference from our other varieties and reduce cross-contamination to align with the needs of those with dietary preferences,” said Kimberly Holowiak, brand manager for DiGiorno.

And DeIorio’s, Utica, NY, introduced veggie-infused dough balls and raw dough shells made from sweet potato, chickpea, cauliflower, broccoli and hemp. 

When it comes to toppings, 29% of consumers are interested in plant-based alternatives, and 37% of Generation Z and 43% of millenials are interested in meat substitutes, according to Datassential. Superfoods like avocado, kale and arugula are also among the fastest-growing toppings.

Overall, Technomic reported that consumers want more pizzas with natural ingredients (47%) and organic ingredients (31%), followed by those that are vegetarian (25%), low-carb (24%) or gluten-free (24%). 

The BFY wave has reached pizza novelties as well. Snow Days, Austin, Texas, for example, is a brand of organic, grain-free pizza bites made with a cassava flour-based crust, aimed to rival General Mill’s Totino’s Pizza Rolls. The bites feature real mozzarella cheese and are free from preservatives and seed oils. 

“When you invest in the best ingredients from the beginning, the communications to consumers are pretty straightforward,” said Brian Evangelista, general manager of Snow Days. “We encourage all new and prospective consumers to look at our nutrition panel; we have nothing to hide.” 

The bites come in Sausage, Cheese, Veggie White and Buffalo Chicken varieties, and the company launched a limited-edition Taco Pizza flavor this year.

This article is an excerpt from the September 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Pizza, click here.