Canadian Pizza Magazine

Marketing Insights: A grain of truth

Michelle Brisebois   

Features In the Kitchen Ingredients

A grain of truth

Oh how trends come and go. Only 18 months ago we were
raving about how low-carb dieting was the biggest thing since sliced
bread (all puns intended) and by the end of 2005, Atkins Nutritionals,
Inc. had declared bankruptcy. 

Oh how trends come and go. Only 18 months ago we were raving about how low-carb dieting was the biggest thing since sliced bread (all puns intended) and by the end of 2005, Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. had declared bankruptcy. 

Diet fads are often fleeting but this one seemed to hit the brick wall with a particularly loud thud.  In Canada, low-carb dieting was given a nice big push towards that wall; a move cheered by many health care professionals who felt eliminating carbohydrates endangered the wellbeing of Canadians. Now that consumers are incorporating bread products back into their diets, will it be business as usual or will they demand different options? While bread products were in exile, did our relationship with them change?

We can thank our governments, both provincial and federal, for playing defense on our behalf.  The feds implemented strict labelling regulations that clearly forbade making any sort of “low carb” claim. Taking effect in December 2005, this act sent a clear message to the food industry. It distinctly communicated that the government would not support any marketing activity that positioned an essential food group (carbohydrates) as being bad for Canadians. Provincial governments have built on this mandate by developing guidelines for healthy eating.


The mantra seems to be “make healthy options available and tasty. Let’s bring balance back to the menu. Show consumers how to choose wisely for the main course and have the occasional treat without remorse.”

In the case of bread products, it means the cake-like white bread items would be better replaced with whole grains.  The initial focus has been on the sector of most concern for many Canadians – youth.

As childhood obesity skyrockets, some trend watchers have dubbed this cohort, “Generation XXL.”  Health care professionals are beginning to see type-2 diabetes show up in children and they worry that heart disease will start to appear earlier as well.

Developed by the New Brunswick government, Policy 711 – Healthier Foods and Nutrition in Public Schools, is a great example of a province taking the initiative to promote the consumption of foods with maximum nutritional value.

These programs have had a ripple effect across the country as contract feeders in the schools have proactively launched menus including healthy items. Pizza, with its junk food image, came under close scrutiny – but as those of us who love pizza know, it’s a menu item that is extremely adaptable.

Pizza is undergoing a bit of an “extreme makeover” as it changes its image from a fat-laden sinful choice to a delicious fresh entrée with excellent nutritional value. As our nation’s children begin to consume healthier menu items at school, it stands to reason that their palates will become accustomed to these new flavours and they will then begin to request similar food items at home. You may already be getting requests for healthier pizza offerings, but perhaps you’re not sure if the opportunity is large enough to warrant adding new menu items. Introducing a “lighter side of pizza” may be easier than you think.

If you’re making batches of pizza dough from scratch, it’s easy to create thin crust options from your current formula. Perhaps calling it a more upscale name such as “topped flatbread” even leaving the word pizza off of the description all together will help customers see it in a different light. 

A wheat crust made with whole grains can pose operational challenges. You may not wish to create another formulation and your equipment may be not be suited to making the smaller batches required until sales take off. Creating a wheat crust with a taste profile that doesn’t overpower the toppings has caused many operators to shy away from introducing a wheat crust. Savvy manufacturers have picked up on this trend and are beginning to introduce value-added formats that strike the perfect balance between meeting nutritional demands and tasting great. 

Rich Products of Canada has recently led the development and introduction of sheeted wheat frozen pizza dough in both 7" and 16" sizes. This product won the 2005 Food Service Grand Prix award in the Bakery Product category. Products such as this provide a fast, low-risk means for operators to quickly tap into this growing trend.    

Yes, pendulums swing from extreme to extreme. In the case of Canadian eating habits, you could say literally feast or famine.

We’re in the process of settling back to a nice middle ground, where we’re realizing that great tasting food doesn’t have to hurt us. The food industry is doing its part to make healthier, delicious options available. Now all consumers have to do is accept the offer.  As author J. O. De La Mettrie once observed, “after all, the body of man is a machine which winds its own springs.”•

Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. She specializes in brand strategies. Michelle can be reached at

Print this page


Stories continue below