Pizza with unusual toppings
Today's pizzas go beyond typical sausage, tomato sauce and mozzarella. New product toppings - fruits, premium meats and ethnic flavors - derive their inspiration from global trends and the desire for authenticity.

Stake a healthy claim

Consumers continue to be intrigued by healthy alternatives and ingredients, but pizza remains semi-immune. According to Mintel’s report, only 22% of respondents said they consider health-related attributes to be important when shopping for store-bought pizza. More than half of the respondents said that it is worth it to pay more for higher-quality store-bought pizza, indicating that consumers are more concerned with quality over nutrition.

However, pizza with better-for-you ingredients or claims can often go hand-in-hand with quality, and nutrition can be a point of differentiation on a supermarket shelf overcrowded with options. A better-for-you option can come in the form of smaller pizzas or labels promoting nutritional value and quality.

Little Lady Foods is finding that shoppers, particularly baby boomers dealing with empty nests, are just not that interested in traditional 7-, 8-, 9- or 12-in. pizzas. They want single-serve and handheld products.

“The bigger pizzas are just not what’s growing anymore,” Mr. Foran said. “The products that are growing are single-serve pizzas, especially 6-in. pizzas with a healthy connotation to them.”

That healthy connotation most often takes the form of a claim or a clean ingredient list. Mintel reported that the top three health-related attributes consumers look for in refrigerated or frozen pizzas are no artificial additives, preservatives, colors, sweeteners; all-natural or organic ingredients; and whole grain crust.

Mr. Foran echoed that finding, saying that all-natural is a claim used extensively across the category, but that gluten-free is also a claim that persists alongside natural and organic — all of which Little Lady Foods is capable of producing.

Organic and gluten-free, however, do not come without challenges. “You have the issue of securing supply as well as storage and handling concerns,” said Vince Nasti, vice-­president, operations, Nation Pizza and Food, Schaumburg, IL. That goes for both organic and gluten-free claims. Though both can separate a pizza from the pack and gain the attention of niche consumer groups.

Whole grain pizza crusts aren’t as simple anymore as just switching from white flour to whole wheat. Bakers are branching out to try other healthful options. “People are looking at sprouted wheat, white whole wheat, quinoa,” said Randy Charles, CEO, Alive and Kickin’ Pizza Crust, Green Bay, WI, which has incorporated both quinoa and sprouted wheat into its crusts.

In an effort to make a better whole grain crust, Damascus Bakery started experimenting with whole grains other than whole wheat to find something that would deliver the same bite people expect from pizza crust and an acceptable flavor. After working with quinoa and amaranth, the bakery settled on khorasan wheat, also known as Kamut, which Mr. Mafoud said had the best taste while still delivering a bubbly bite.