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Top trends driving strong pizza consumption

Consumers tout crust & quality dough as the most important component
Photograph: Shutterstock

Pizza sales skyrocketed in 2020. According to Datassential, traffic was up 125% compared to pre-pandemic levels, likely in part because of its convenience, comfort, familiarity and customizability. Simply put, people love pizza.

And when thinking of what entices people to order pizza from specific restaurants, things like toppings, cheeses and how fast it will get delivered come to mind. But increasingly, pizza crust is what people are most interested in. In fact, Technomic’s 2020 Pizza Consumer Trend Report found that 70% of consumers say crust/a quality dough is the most important component.

Pizza consumption is on the rise and there are a number of factors that are pushing this. We’re at home more; we’re returning to simple, familiar and comforting foods in times of turbulence; and there’s a rising need for purely joyful experiences,” said Matthew Schueller, Director of Marketing Insights at Ardent Mills. “A few trends we’re seeing become even more prevalent in 2021 are the demand for authenticity and healthy/alternative pizzas – crusts play an important role here.”

Crust is a must

For operators, offering a quality crust ensures the rest of the pizza can shine—after all, if a crust is flavorless, flimsy or otherwise sub-par, what’s on top doesn’t really matter.

Pizza crusts offer operators the opportunity to convey authenticity as well as offer flavor innovation and health benefits. And with trends like those leading the charge in pizza sales, operators are wise to explore the various options out there for making crust.

New flour choices, as well as heirloom and ancient grains, open up a new world for pizza dough innovation. They can help bring new textures to crusts and can also help meet the growing demand for healthier crusts such as vegan and whole grain. Another avenue to explore is crust add-ins such as quinoa, spelt and chickpea flour -- they can help bring more nutrition, texture and new flavors to pizza recipes.  

Traditional flours, ingredients and crusts are also a great way satisfy authenticity trends. And, since consumers are still big fans of traditional pizzas -- they will always be a staple.  

Innovate around on-trend lifestyle diets

Plant-forward options are on the rise, even among consumers who don’t abstain from eating meat or animal products. Another trend that continues to make waves is gluten-free. Technomic’s Pizza Report found that 23% of consumers are interested in gluten-free pizza options, and an additional 27% are interested in low-carb pizza options. What’s more, 28% of consumers strongly agree that they would eat pizza more often if there were healthier options available.

To that end, operators can consider innovating with plant-forward and protein-rich gluten-free grains, as well as flours and flour blends based on alternative grains or legumes, such as quinoa and chickpeas. Chickpea flour from Ardent Mills, for instance, is a nutrient-dense, high-protein and versatile alternative flour option that holds up extremely well for many applications, including pizza. 

Incorporate clean-label and health-halo callouts

Beyond plant-based and gluten-free choices, consumers are also interested in ordering and eating pizza made with quality ingredients. Technomic’s Pizza Report noted that 51% of consumers say they’d like more restaurants to offer pizzas made with natural ingredients, and 32% say they want restaurants to offer pizzas made with organic ingredients.

Operators don’t need to worry about different suppliers for their clean label or organic pizza crust needs—Ardent Mills offers a selection of organic grains and flours, including organic all-purpose flour, organic whole wheat flour and more. For great pizza crusts, Ardent Mills’ Simply Milled™ Organic Premium Bakers Flour is a perfect choice.

Moreover, Ardent Mills’ team of R&D and technical experts understand the right flour, or flour combinations, for optimal dough performance necessary for most crust styles. To learn more about Ardent Mill’s available flour options for creating an array of pizza crust options, click here.

This post is sponsored by Ardent Mills

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