Business and Operations
Marketing insights: April-May 2015
The maturation of pizza
By Michelle Brisebois
Marketers love to target youth. Everything we read these days seems to be all about millennials, or those born in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
It’s true that younger Canadians tend to eat more pizza by volume, but is that segment poised to grow and is the profit margin healthy?
Pizza came to North America after the Second World War as authentic Italian cuisine and after a few decades of living in the low-margin/high-volume fast food category, it appears to be going back to its roots. Canadians in their 50s and 60s are driving the demand for authentic, artisanal cuisine and since baby boomers represent 29 per cent of the Canadian population and more than 50 per cent of the country’s wealth, any trend they embrace will be a wave worth catching.
Authentic cuisine is experiencing a resurgence. In fact, the National Restaurant Association surveyed 1,300 chefs and asked them to rate a variety of food trends for 2015 as “Hot Trend, Yesterday’s News or Perennial Favourite.” Authentic cuisine was rated by 82 per cent of chefs as a Hot Trend or Perennial Favourite (56 and 27 per cent, respectively).
It’s this exact sentiment that has inspired Peller Estates Winery executive chef Jason Parsons to invest in an outdoor pizza oven and to showcase authentic pizza on Peller’s Barrel House Grill menu this summer. Though the winery sees a variety of visitors from all age groups and cultural backgrounds, wine lovers in their 30s, 40s and 50s are a core consumer group.
“Why pizza?” we asked Parsons. “We get our regular diners who enjoy the high-end dining, but I noticed they often wanted lighter fare as well,” he says. “It’s not the type of pizza one gets at a large chain. I wanted to offer an authentic Italian pizza with a thin crust. It’s not about the toppings, it’s about the perfection of the taste the pizza stone imparts and crispiness of the crust.”
According to Technomic’s 2014 Canadian Pizza Consumer Trend Report, he’s bang on in his assessment. The report states “more than seven out of 10 consumers say that crust texture (76 per cent), flavour (71 per cent, up from 64 per cent in 2012) and thickness (71 per cent) are highly important in creating a good pizza.” Parsons is looking to replicate the bit of char similar to the pizza he had in Italy on his crusts. While authenticity may be an important place to root the flavour profile of your menu, pizza offers another culinary benefit cited as being a key trend. It lends itself well to “eatertainment.”
Technomic’s 2014 survey also reports “kitchen craftsmanship” to be a key restaurant trend, and pizza exemplifies this theme. Cooking methods such as hearth baking and wood firing, or tossing the dough in front of customers’ eyes, delights guests and makes them perceive the pizza as premium. “Pizza lends itself to a bit of showmanship,” Parsons says. “We’ve built the pizza oven as part of an outdoor kitchen that allows guests to sit around the production area and watch the preparation. They can see the brick oven and watch the pizzas go in and come out.”
Technomics also confirms that consumer perception of pizza’s quality is significantly and positively impacted by preparation technique. “More than two-fifths of Canadian consumers agree that pizza cooked in a brick oven (47 per cent) or wood-fired pizza (41 per cent) tastes better than pizza cooked in an electric oven. Further, 33 per cent of consumers even say that wood-fired pizza is of higher quality.” Your margins will benefit from your ability to charge more for the pie.
Much like small-lot wines and craft beers, the ingredients in an authentic, artisan pizza have a story to tell: consumers want to know about where they came from and who helped grow or harvest them. Most authentic Italian pizzas are single-serve.
“I like the notion of a 12-inch thin-crust pizza cut into four pieces,” says Parsons, who sees his guests perhaps ordering one pizza to share and then each having an appetizer as well. “I want them to pick it up, fold it and relish the pleasure of eating it.”
The classic Margherita pizza will be a staple of the winery’s menu but Parsons is looking forward to experimenting further with the toppings. “I’d like to try pesto with goat’s cheese and even elk,” he says.
For a generation with time and money to travel and savour life, a taste of adventure is definitely on the menu.
Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. She specializes in brand strategies.