Canadian Pizza Magazine

Features Business and Operations Marketing
From the Editor’s desk: December 2012

Defining authenticity


At one time, one could argue Oprah held the record for overuse of the word “authentic.” Finding yourself and living your best life became inextricably tied to the idea of authenticity.

At one time, one could argue Oprah held the record for overuse of the
word “authentic.” Finding yourself and living your best life became
inextricably tied to the idea of authenticity.

The foodies are about
to take the title. The concept of authenticity is everywhere in today’s
food choices, which have become as closely tied to our identity as the
clothes we wear. John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods, spoke
about our evolving food consciousness at Taste Tomorrow, an event hosted
by Puratos in Chicago. He said that “food is a type of self-expression”
now, and his customers feel they are saying something about themselves
by being Whole Foods shoppers.

When you wrap the authenticity
movement and self-expression up in food, what kind of pizza does that
deliver? There are so many questions surrounding authenticity that it
can be a complex question to answer. What does authenticity mean? It’s
one of those words such as “natural” that have an instinctive resonance
more than a dictionary meaning for people. How do consumers measure it?
Sejal Sukhadwala asks in a blog for the Guardian titled “The bogus quest
for ‘authentic’ food” if authenticity is perhaps tied up in the person
making it being true to oneself. Boy, that really muddies the waters.

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Authenticity
is a hit right now for many reasons, but the one that boils right down
to the bottom line of your pizzeria is the fact that it can be a real
point of differentiation that resonates with consumers today. At the
Taste Tomorrow event, which released Puratos’ extensive global study on
consumer preferences and brought together some highly influential minds
in the food industry, I heard the same theme pop up over and over again.
People want natural food in a bed of authenticity wrapped up in
heritage and sealed with a healthy kiss. Selling this platter to today’s
consumer depends largely on how well you can sell the story because
perception of these characteristics is subjective. The quest for
authentic food is not bogus, but it is in the eye of the beholder.

Authenticity
in cooking requires knowing the history of ingredients and the
traditional way a dish is made in its indigenous culture. Selling
authenticity requires knowing this plus what people think is the “real
deal.” As Sukhadwala notes in her blog: “In many places dishes
considered to be classics of the local cuisine don’t taste as they used
to even five or 10 years ago, let alone back in the mists of time. The
influences of travel, trade and other cultures, the availability of
ingredients and changes in technology are all factors in their
evolution.” If this is true, then authenticity as exact replication is
impossible. But selling the story is not. I think you can make a pizza
that is your version of authentic and still sell it successfully to your
customers by making sure they know the traditional aspect and the
twist. In this way, it becomes authentically yours, which is more
powerful than an exact replica of anything because it cannot be repeated
anywhere else. The combination of authentic and yours is a powerful
one. In this edition’s cover story, we explore what people’s
expectations are when it comes to authentic pizza.

Canadian Pizza
wishes all our readers and supporters a wonderful holiday season and a
prosperous close to the year. We will see you in 2013!