By Colleen Cross
In January 2012, Brandi Cowen wrote an interesting article that identified pizza trends in Canada. As I look over the list, I see familiar themes. Here’s a look at three of those trends – local food, fresh and healthy and innovation – that have not only stood the test of time but gained ground over the last five years.
“Consumers are continuing to seek out sustainable foods with a farm-to-table history that can be unravelled without an Internet search engine or a good old-fashioned world map.”
Locally sourced foods made Restaurants Canada’s 2016 Chef Survey’s Hot Trends list and the push for local food has become even more mainstream since 2012.
We cited the U.S. quick-service chain Chipotle Mexican Grill as a foodservice operation that has embraced local food with great success. Although the chain took a bad hit this year after a series of unfortunate food safety incidents, its “food with integrity” philosophy still resonates. Customers still want to know where their food comes from.
A growing number of Canadian pizzerias are supplementing their ingredients list with produce from nearby farms or farmers markets. And while the “local” label may mean anything from ingredients grown in a restaurant’s kitchen garden to those sourced within 100 miles, it appears regularly and proudly on menus as a type of cross-promotion that works well for everyone.
Fresh and healthy
“Closely linked to the growing demand for artisanal pizzas is a push for fresh fare.”
In 2012, NPD Group analyst Linda Strachan said pizza is well positioned to leverage the “trend toward people looking for more natural and fresh ingredients.” Less processed and more fresh toppings were seen as being in demand, as were whole-grain, high-protein, natural, heart-healthy, low-calorie and gluten- or wheat-free pizzas, according to NPD’s research.
It’s clear they still are. Many pizzas offer or are considering offering gluten-free pies, for example. But these desirable traits, or claims, might now be seen as part of a much bigger trend we will call transparency. This trend encompasses people’s health concerns, their desire for simpler fare and their wish to have their values line up with their dining dollars.
The demand is alive and well, with gluten-free/food allergy conscious and leafy greens like kale and beet greens making Restaurants Canada’s 2016 Chef Survey’s Hot Trends list.
Restaurants are finding it hard to ignore customers’ interest in clean-label food – that is, food containing easily recognizable ingredients – and ethically produced food. A&W was early to offer antibiotic-free chicken, and last year Pizza Nova took a strong stance among pizzerias by introducing its proprietary pepperoni sourced from animals that are Canadian-raised without antibiotics or hormones and vegetable grain-fed.
This ties right into telling your pizzeria’s story. If you and your staff can clearly describe what your menu descriptions mean, there will be no misunderstanding and an appreciation of your values, suggested a recent webinar hosted by Fast Casual magazine in the U.S.
Look for a feature on food transparency in Canadian Pizza later this year.
In today’s tough market, restaurateurs need to get creative to stay competitive. Thinking outside the box – both literally and figuratively – can make your business stand out and help build buzz. . . . Innovation is really key – giving people a new reason to choose you as opposed to somebody else for those scarce restaurant visits.”
We see signs of innovation every day and I believe that – coupled with a sense of personal service and family – it’s what gives independent pizzerias an edge over mass-produced pizza. From half-pizza garlic rolls dreamed up by Za Pizzeria in Toronto to house specialty shaved steak,-roasted red pepper-mushroom-avocado-leek pizza found at Pi Eatery in St. John’s, Canadian pizza innovation is thriving.
Canadian Pizza Show is one place you are guaranteed to see innovation. Year after year, pizzaiolos impress us with their skill and creativity. Last year it seemed to be all about the dough and we saw crust inclusions like squid ink, einkorn, rosemary, pumpkin and ancient grains. Julie Fitz-Gerald followed up with this look at cutting-edge crusts.
One trend that has ramped up since 2012 is Napoletana pizza. Several chefs asked us for a Chef of the Year Napoletana division and this year we are happy to oblige! It’s a loosely defined, Napoletana-STYLE we are looking for, so no VPN certification is required. There are still a few spots left in this division, so check out the rules here! Join us on Oct. 17 in Mississauga, Ont.! It’s free to pizzerias and such a fun way to witness trends firsthand.
Here’s another even easier way to keep an eye on pizza trends . . . sign up for our free e-newsletter. Get the latest headlines that affect independent pizzerias in Canada, right in your inbox, every two weeks!