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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pizza Industry Doesn't Have to Throw Health Under the Bus

When it comes to eating more healthfully, it's long been obvious that while consumers may talk the talk, they may not walk the walk. But the needle has nevertheless shifted: the health trend is real. Is it leaving pizza behind? The survey say “yes.”

Proprietary survey results analyzed in our Pizza Market in the U.S.: Foodservice and Retail report indicate a clear food consumption trend toward healthier options and home-based cost savings, at the expense of pizza.  With respect to the 17 foods and food types we asked about, consumers are most likely to be “eating more” of those with stronger general health attributes and with home-based cost savings. Unfortunately for pizza purveyors, consumers are less likely to be eating more pizza, whether its restaurant pizza, frozen pizza, or fresh/refrigerated pizza.

Sales trends are correspondingly lukewarm. We forecast U.S. pizza restaurant 2011-2014 compound annual growth of 3.3%, lagging projected restaurant industry growth. Pizza is also loosening its hold on the restaurant menu, with menu penetration falling by 4% from 2008 to 2012. We also forecast U.S. frozen and refrigerated retail pizza 2011-2014 compound annual growth of -0.1%, lagging projected retail food sales growth (estimates are unadjusted for inflation).

Of course, nobody is counting pizza out--you can't swing a pepperoni stick without hitting a pizza lover.  With usage penetration at restaurants and retail alike well above 90%, pizza remains an American staple. But after riding the recession-driven value wave, pizza is losing steam.
Even so, menu trends reveal a wealth of cuisine-driven growth opportunity, from pushing more mileage out of fusion cuisine to sauce experimentation to leveraging a wider variety of niche cheeses. Each of these approaches increases taste variety, opening up sales opportunity.
But health must play a more central role. While health claims are often woven into menus, pizza is simply not in step with the health-driven terminology: only 2.3% of restaurants serving pizza as an entrée associate pizza with “gluten free” on the menu; “low fat” and “organic” are associated with only 1.9% and 1.1%.   Restaurant operators surely can experiment more with healthful claims that resonate with pizza eaters.
And the industry already has vegetables in its corner. A slew of vegetable toppings are available at restaurants serving pizza entrées, ranging from the more ubiquitous olives (at 69%) to broccoli (30%) and arugula (10%), demonstrating strong mainstream and niche appeal. As an inherently healthy food, vegetables provide an ideal vehicle for purveyors to ratchet up pizza’s health profile without having to aggressively sell on nutritional merits to consumers, who already order pizzas with vegetables in abundance.
The bottom line is that the pizza industry doesn't have to throw health under the bus, especially if it wants to grow sales: Some 4 in 10 consumers say healthier pizza options would entice them to eat pizza more often.

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