Global Influence on American Pizza Palettes

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The world is getting smaller as time rolls on: with faster travel, the internet and technological advancements at our fingertips, it’s easier than ever before to merge Eastern and Western influences. We’re used to seeing Italian-based pizza offerings heading our way, but a few new global trends of note are hitting restaurant and bakery menus Stateside. 


Flavors originating from Middle Eastern countries were hot this year, and we see no signs of the flavor rush lessening heading into 2020. Supermarket Perimeter reported that za’atar, zhoug and toum are especially trendy in the emerging foods category. Za’atar is a combination of green herbs, sesame and olive oil, while zhoug is a blend of hot pepper, garlic and cilantro. Toum is a Lebanese condiment including garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. All three sound especially delicious blended within pizza crusts or as a drizzle, even though they may be unfamiliar to Western pizza lovers. In fact, Venice Bakery told Supermarket Perimeter that 65% of consumers said taste is the primary driver of pizza crusts that are plant-based, gluten-free and vegan, allowing for innovation and authenticity to shine through. 

Consumer demand is evident in a Technomic study, published by PMQ Pizza Magazine. Forty-four percent of consumers rated fresh, high-quality ingredients and best crust as deciding factors in pizza purchases, and 49% said authenticity in pizza making is something they would like to see more of. Younger generations especially want to know what ingredients are in their pizzas, and crave a wider range of flavor profiles.

Flatbreads and Pita Doughs

Flatbreads and pita doughs are a great way for pizza makers to innovate using Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences. And, consumers who are craving an on-the-go or shared experiences can get the best of both worlds. 

Flavor & The Menu shares that Eastern Mediterranean countries like Lebanon, Turkey, Israel and Syria “serve up a delicious flatbread tradition, championed by culinary superstars like Alon Shaya of Saba in New Orleans and the newly opened Safta in Denver, as well as Michael Solomonov of Philadelphia’s Zahav and Goldie.” Successes have been attributed to “flawless technique and attention to cultural detail.” Additionally, flatbreads and pita breads are breakable and shareable, making for a global return to eating with friends either at the table or on-the-go.

Chris Koetke, CEO of Complete Culinary LLC, told Flavor & the Menu: “Flatbreads are exceptional vehicles for adding creative flavors to the dough. They also represent a low-cost product that, when prepared well, can drive business and create food memories. There is plenty of room for creativity in the flatbread space by adding new ingredients and flavors. Flatbreads also convey the flavor of fire, with a tradition of being pulled from a wood-burning oven and featuring doughy centers with crispy, charred bits.”

Once such example is St. Louis-based Balkan Treat Box, which features a handheld “pide,” with a sourdough base. It’s inspired by Turkish wood-fired flatbread, baked at a high temperature, and is a canoe-shaped meal with crimped edges. Toppings are put onto the raw dough without tomato sauce or olive oil, instead meat is flattened onto the dough and baked with brown butter and ajvar sauce, a mix of roasted red pepper, garlic and eggplant. Pide can be open or sealed similar to the calzone.

Washington, D.C.-based Tempo, which Flavor & the Menu compares to Blaze Pizza or MOD Pizza fast casual chains, allows customers to choose their own toppings for their pide, which can be an array of chicken sautéed with green peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs, feta cheese, caramelized onion and salam (Turkish beef salami).

West Meets East
PMQ Pizza Magazine’s 2019 Pizza Power Report: A State-of-the-Industry Analysis showed that pizza on an international scale is “thriving, with a five-year forecasted growth rate of 10.7%, largely due to the influence the West brings back to the East. Pizza Hut is growing faster than the dough can rise in China, and PMQ China forecasted the chain to open 1,000 new stores by the end of 2019. Sazeriya (Japan), Mr. Pizza (South Korea) and Dodo Pizza (Russia), also were projected to expand into China with 100, 50 and 20 new stores, respectively. Papa Johns, Domino’s and Yum! Brands also were heavy hitters in Australia, India, Scandinavia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Poland and — perhaps no surprise — Italy. 

With this global invasion happening back and forth, we are seeing more dough education, increasing popularity of region pizza styles like Roman, Sicilian, Detroit, New York and more. If you’re excited to try out new, global innovations, don’t forget LloydPans for all your pizza pan and tool needs.

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