Our stomachs are growling; our mouths are watering, and we have a need for something to satisfy our insatiable appetites. The good news is that pizza exists, and more Americans are weighing in on the combinations and trends that define what ‘za criteria works best for them.
Coca-Cola commissioned a study to find out what Americans most craved during quarantine, and an astounding three in five said they like to snack while drinking some sort of flavor of Coke. What are they snacking on? More than half of the West and Southwest regions named pizza. Quarantine led to some hangry desperate measures; in fact, 48% of the entire nation said they would walk over a mile to satisfy their craving for a snack. Gen Z was the most dedicated to the trek, with 73% saying they would walk over four miles. That’s a lot of steps for a pizza party!
Walking miles for indulgence is a great way to feel less guilt while eating their favorite pies, but choosing more nutritious options to begin with also ranks high on the wish list. SmartBrief noted that one of the few “bright spots” in the restaurant industry in 20202 was pizza food service in particular. The comforting combination of cheese, crust and sauce — and surely the fact that pizza is a highly-deliverable food — contributed to the rise of pizza during the pandemic.
Datassential’s Pizza Keynote report released in April 2021 shared some interesting findings from 1,501 consumers and 354 pizza operators as reported on by SmartBrief:
-Prior to the pandemic, more than half of all operator pizza sales were sold on premise for dine-in occasions. Takeout pizza represented a third, and delivery just 12% on average.
-Over the past year, delivery grew to 19% on average, and takeout captured the majority of sales to comprise nearly half (48%) of all pizza sales.
-Americans came out of the pandemic anxious to eat healthier and shed those pandemic pounds, but not wanting to give up pizza (we shudder at the thought!). Healthier versions, including those with cauliflower crust are seen as a good compromise. Thus, cauliflower crusts are on the rise among those who adhere to low-carb or gluten-free diets.
-Gluten-free pizza is currently on 11.4% of menus and is projected to grow another 27% in the next four years.
-Superfoods like avocado, kale and arugula are also among the fastest-growing pizza toppings.
-Plant-based is soaring on menus; consumers are looking for everything from plant-based meats to more vegetable-forward pizzas to experiment with.
-Vegan is the fastest-growing pizza type by far, surging 187% on menus in the last three years.
-Also ranking high among consumers in terms of pizza options: stuffed crust and global flavors like Mexican, Hawaiian and other non-traditional pizza flavorings, like Thai peanut, which has seen a 58% rise on menus since 2018. Consumers want variety and bold flavors, but they also have room for the traditional.
– Stuffed crust, in particular, represents the biggest gap between consumer demand and operator adoption.
-Breakfast pizza, currently on 2.9% of menus, is expected to grow 15% in the next four years.
-Consumer interest in innovative pizza technology is also growing. Drone delivery interest has grown to 42% from 35% just three years ago. GPS tracking of food delivery, phone or alternate device delivery and even pizza vending machines have increased in appeal as well.