Canadian Pizza Magazine

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The pizza Chef: July-August 2014

Is healthy pizza in demand?


July 17, 2014
By Diana Cline


Topics

More and more Canadians are demanding healthier meal options for
themselves and for their families, and it seems wise to listen and
respond to what they are saying.

More and more Canadians are demanding healthier meal options for themselves and for their families, and it seems wise to listen and respond to what they are saying.

Like it or not, most Canadians do read the nutritional labels on a product before deciding whether or not to purchase the item. It’s worth noting that women, who still do the majority of household shopping, are the most likely to read the nutritional information. 

Food manufacturing companies have noticed and are even adding things like omega-3, DHA and extra iron to everything from yogurt to bread. Health Canada is asking restaurants to reduce the amount of sodium in their dishes, although so far they’ve yet to impose the same threats on all the heat-and-serve meal options at the grocery store. And the recommended levels of sodium are still in debate, here in Canada and abroad. It makes a great deal of sense: a healthier population means fewer dollars need to be spent on health care and an overall better quality of life – call it preventive health care. 

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The movement toward healthier meals was instigated by the consumer. But do consumers truly want healthy pizza? Is there such a thing? North American-style pizzas evolved differently than their Italian counterparts; North American-style pizzas are typically loaded up with cheese and toppings, whereas Italian-style pizzas are typically healthier with less cheese, sparse toppings and thin crusts.

Back in 2000, we began making a line of 100 per cent whole wheat pizza crusts, and while they took time to catch on, they came to represent 40 per cent of our sales. Combined with a low-fat mozzarella, a few vegetables and a lean grilled chicken breast, it’s not just healthy but also quite delicious.

These days, Canadian consumers expect to find heart-smart and heart-healthy meal options on the menu – even on a fast food menu. More and more chains are adding these options and are receiving positive feedback. Many pizza places, chains and independents offer whole-wheat and/or multigrain pizza crusts with increasing demand. 

Most places are reactive about this change in the marketplace. Several companies thought that it was simply a trend that would pass quickly and failed to accommodate what’s now an expectation. The companies that are constantly asking what customers want and exposing their customers to different options they may not have previously known about are in a better position to be ahead of the curve and profit from this change in consumer tastes. 

We have always polled our customers and created pizzas and menu items to cater to them. We began making our whole-wheat crust in very small batches and offering free sample slices to gauge our customers’ reactions. Several years ago we started getting calls requesting gluten-free pizzas. The number of calls increased every week, and we decided it would be wise to invest time in creating a recipe. I spent about six months developing a recipe and then incorporating it into a busy pizzeria that specializes in wheat pizzas.

The day we launched our gluten-free pizza crust, we already had a list of customers who were eagerly anticipating it. Aside from calling everyone on the list, it took very little effort to promote it. The evolution of our menu was entirely driven by customer demand with the addition of a non-GMO, non-soy, non-dairy style of mozzarella cheese and even a yeast-free pizza crust option. 

Whether you thought healthy pizza was a trend that’s here to stay or a fleeting fad, you have to be living under a rock not to notice the increased demand for healthier meals. Will demand be sufficient in your market to warrant adding a line of healthy pizzas to your menu? That question will ultimately only be answered through testing.


Diana Cline is a two-time Canadian Pizza Magazine chef of the year champion, internationally recognized gourmet pizzaiolo, former owner of Diana’s Gourmet Pizzeria in Winnipeg, Man., and a director for the CRFA from 2009-2013. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is also a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating systems to run a pizzeria on autopilot, along with marketing and positioning to help operators grow their business effectively and strategically. She is available for consulting on a limited basis. For more information contact her at dianaslcline@gmail.com.


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