It doesn’t seem like that long ago that pizza makers were all about “more.” More meat, more cheese, more toppings.
Now, the industry is taking a step back and appears to be adopting a strategy where “less is more.”
Nestle USA, Solon, Ohio, on June 1 announced plans to remove artificial flavors and reduce sodium in its frozen pizza and snack products by the end of the year. The changes will affect more than 250 products across six brands, which include DiGiorno, Tombstone, California Pizza Kitchen, Jack’s, Hot Pockets and Lean Pockets.
By the end of 2015, the products will contain no artificial flavors and will have 10% less sodium compared with 2013 levels. Nestle also will incorporate guidance tools on packaging across the brands to help educate consumers on portion control and a balanced diet.
The announcement underscores Nestle’s ongoing commitment to improving the nutritional and ingredient profile of its products, and is especially noteworthy for the frozen pizza category given the company’s No. 1 position. When the leader makes a move, others tend to follow. Nestle’s frozen pizza sales slumped during the most recent 52-week period, falling 4% to $1,958,250,368 on an 8% decline in unit sales, according to Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm.
“We know people want to feel good about the foods they eat, and they’re seeking foods made with fewer artificial ingredients and less sodium,” said John Carmichael, president of the Nestle Pizza & Snacking Division, Nestle USA. “As one of the nation’s largest food companies, Nestle is listening to consumers and delivering on their desire for convenient, great-tasting foods that have an improved nutritional profile.”
New products launching this spring and summer from Nestle include California Pizza Kitchen Gluten-Free Crispy Thin Crust pizzas, DiGiorno Pizzeria! Thin, Hot Pockets Snack Bites and Breakfast Bites, Tombstone Limited Edition Diablo and Bratwurst pizzas and California Pizza Kitchen Hand-Tossed Style pizzas. All of the forthcoming innovations reflect Nestle’s commitments, and several of the products were developed to provide consumers with portioned meal and snack options.
“Portion guidance is our way of making it easier for consumers to make informed choices that are right for them and their family,” said Cassie Hoover, RDN, nutrition, health and wellness manager, Nestle Pizza & Snacking Division, Nestle USA.
Pizza Hut works over menu
On the food service side, Pizza Hut, a business unit of Yum! Brands, Inc., announced plans to remove artificial flavors and colors from its pizzas by the end of July. The chain has been working for more than a year with suppliers to reformulate its menu and eliminate many artificial additives that are common across the industry supply chain. The effort required continuous testing and redevelopment of products to preserve the flavors consumers expect from the brand while meeting demand for simple ingredients and transparency.
“Today’s consumer more than ever before wants to understand the ingredients that make up the foods that they enjoy,” said David Gibbs, chief executive officer of Pizza Hut.
Previously, Pizza Hut eliminated partially hydrogenated oils and MSG and has reduced the sodium in its pizzas. By the end of the year, 15% of Pizza Hut pizzas will have a third of the daily recommended dietary allowance for sodium, and 20% of its pizzas will meet the criteria by 2020.
The company said it does not use fillers in its meat toppings or artificial colors, flavors or preservatives in its meatballs. Pizza Hut sources Italian sausage from U.S. farmers and uses cheese made from 100% whole-milk mozzarella. Additionally, the company said it does not add sugar or oil to its pizza marinara sauce.
In addition to the ingredient changes, Pizza Hut will introduce an interactive nutrition calculator and allergen tool to its web site and mobile app in July. Earlier this year, the company introduced reduced-calorie pizzas and Udi’s Gluten Free crust.
Upscale pizza debuts in April
The Schwan Food Co. is the nation’s No. 2 frozen pizza company with annual sales of $911,051,520, up 3% from the same period a year ago, according to I.R.I. The Bloomington, Minn.-based pizza maker has added to its line in recent months with two products that hit on a couple of other rising trends in the grain-based foods industry: gluten-free and flavorful ingredients.
In early April, Schwan launched Bon Appétit, a specialty pizza brand featuring pizzas with a thin, artisan crust and flavorful ingredients.
“Meals should be moments that matter, especially for those who appreciate fine food and the good times in life,” said Kevin McAdams, president of Schwan’s Consumer Brands. “Bon Appétit thin crust pizza is crafted for the consumer who wants to connect and linger over a delicious meal at home. This is truly a great pizza.”
Schwan said the pizza appeals to consumers with “sophisticated tastes,” featuring flavorful ingredients such as tangy basil pesto, sliced mozzarella and halved cherry tomatoes. The new Bon Appétit brand includes five varieties: Mozzarella and Pesto; Spinaci; Pepperoni and Pesto; Roasted Vegetable; and Trio Bacon.
Also in April, Schwan introduced single-serve Freschetta Gluten Free Pizza. The new single-serve pizzas are available in two flavors: 4 Cheese Medley and Signature Pepperoni Pizza.
Freschetta Gluten Free Pizza features a blend of cheese, including mozzarella, fontina, Parmesan and Asiago, combined with a rich, flavorful pizza sauce on the 4 Cheese Medley variety and loads of pepperoni on the Signature Pepperoni Pizza variety.