KANSAS CITY — Consumer spending at quick-service pizza restaurants last year was the highest it’s been in more than 14 years, according to Statista. In 2018, consumers in the United States spent approximately $36.5 billion in the Q.S.R. pizza category.

Seeking a bigger slice of that spending, pizza purveyors are dishing out innovation ranging from revamped recipes to plant-based pies.

Pizza Hut spent the last three years reinventing its recipe for the Original Pan Pizza. The updated pizza is topped with a new blend of cheese and sauce and is baked in a newly engineered pan that delivers a golden-brown, crispy and buttery crust with a soft and chewy center, Pizza Hut said.

“We know that taste is king for our customers, so we’re excited to roll out this new, state-of-the-art pan technology, combined with our perfected blend of cheese and sauce ratio,” said Penny Shaheen, senior director of culinary innovation and strategy at Pizza Hut. “We’ve put a lot of energy and love into refining this beloved pizza and are eager for customers to taste the unbelievable difference first-hand.”

Vegetables take center stage in the new BBQ Heirloom Carrot Flatbread for California Pizza Kitchen. A spin on the chain’s Original BBQ Chicken Pizza, the flatbread is made with hearth-roasted rainbow heirloom carrots, smoked gouda, charred red onion petals, Parmesan, cilantro, barbecue sauce and ranch dressing.

“Our new seasonal menu reflects our creative response to a growing preference for more options that incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables at the center of the plate,” said Brian Sullivan, senior vice-president of culinary innovation at California Pizza Kitchen. “In particular, our new BBQ Heirloom Carrot Flatbread represents a veggie-forward evolution of California Pizza Kitchen’s Original BBQ Chicken Pizza — the pizza that put California Pizza Kitchen on the map back in 1985 — using fresh, roasted baby heirloom rainbow carrots in place of grilled chicken, along with charred red onion petals, smoked Gouda and fresh cilantro. It’s a deliciously unexpected and very California Pizza Kitchen twist on familiar flavors that we think guests will love.”

Little Caesars teamed up with Impossible Foods to launch its latest innovation. The new Impossible Supreme Pizza is topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella and Muenster cheeses, caramelized onions, mushrooms, green peppers and Impossible Sausage made from plants.

To develop the Impossible Sausage for Little Caesars’ new pizza, Impossible Foods' scientists developed Impossible Sausage, then the product was custom seasoned for Little Caesars with the savory seasonings, taste and texture characteristics of traditional sausage used as pizza toppings.

“Little Caesars has a long history of innovation aimed at providing our customers with value, quality, and convenience,” said David Scrivano, president and chief executive officer of Little Caesars. “Any product we introduce must deliver on those brand pillars while appealing to our loyal, mostly carnivorous, fans. I’m confident that the Impossible Supreme Pizza will go down as one of the most surprising and satisfying menu sensations of 2019. This is likely just the beginning of plant-based menu items from Little Caesars.”

Pie Five Pizza is pushing beyond the pie with a new line of calzones featuring flavorful ingredients folded in oven-baked pizza crust. The Loaded Italian Calzone includes Tuscan marinara, mozzarella, pepperoni, ham, bacon, beef, Italian sausage and house dressing; the Double Pepperoni Calzone contains Tuscan marinara, mozzarella and extra pepperoni; and the Meatball Calzone features Tuscan marinara, mozzarella and sliced meatballs.

“Prior to this launch, we tested these calzones in two markets and received very positive guest feedback,” said Christina Coy, vice-president of marketing for Pie Five. “Guests commented on the delicious flavor of the calzones and said that they were the ideal portion size to take on-the-go. These calzones are the perfect addition to our menu as a portable pizza.”

View slideshow of new menu items.