Young & Fast: Two Trends Topping Pizza

You expected a post on health and wellness this month, didn’t you? What if we told you it is and it’s about pizza? Happily, pizza has evolved beyond the ooey, gooey cheese laden, meat loaded, thick crust favorite of childhood and has become a vehicle for healthy toppings and a showcase for world cuisines layered on authentic wholesome crusts. To sum it up, pizza can be incorporated into a healthy diet and is expected to be a major category player on the fast-casual scene.

First, the backstory of pizza: back in the first century, ancient Middle Easterners were throwing dough on open fire and topping the cooked dough with dates, olives, oil and herbs; eventually, the city of Naples, Italy became the birthplace of pizza where dough was rolled out, topped and the whole creation was cooked in pizza ovens. Naples is home to Antica Pizzeria Port’ Alba, widely believed to be the world’s first pizzeria and in 1889, the queen of Italy visited Naples and fell in love with the tomato, mozzarella, basil pizza created in her honor; thus, the Margherita pizza was born.

In the U.S., pizza really took off after WWII when veterans craved the tastes of Italy at home. And we have never looked back. The 80’s saw Wolfgang Puck wooing celebrities with goat cheese and roasted garlic pizza and now worldwide favorite, CPK, turning pizza on its ear with barbecue sauce, chicken and red onion. So what’s in store for pizza right now?

In our last post 6 Trends for a Tasty 2015, we alluded to pizza becoming the darling of fast casual restaurants. Millennials, who are known for frequenting fast-casual spots, are leading the charge to pizza counters. Their fast-paced lifestyles and desire for top quality, gourmet taste at a reasonable price make pizza a perfect choice. Not surprisingly, 45% of Millennials visited a fast casual pizza restaurant last year compared to 28% of other consumers.1 Recognizing this, Chipotle is getting in on the act with investing in and retooling Denver’s Pizzeria Locale and Umami Burger has joined the pizza ranks creating 800 Degrees. And with the backing of successful concepts like these, you can imagine that the flavors and ingredients gracing the tops of pizzas at these venues to be mind-blowing and customized.

At fast-casual pizza concepts, diners can watch their pizzas customized with the likes of eggplant, Calabrian chiles, broccolini, chorizo, capers and prosciutto or traditional stand-bys along with a variety of sauces like barbecue, spicy tomato, alfredo, pesto. Pizzas are cooked at high heat in less than 5 minutes and at many concepts, crusts can be gluten-free, artisanal whole-grain or classic. Not to be left out of the action, Pizza Hut revamped its entire menu earlier this year to include gluten-free crust and products like Pretzel PiggyTM (pretzel crust starring smoked bacon and balsamic drizzle) and Sweet Sriracha Dynamite, loaded with chicken, jalapenos, cherry peppers and a honey sriracha drizzle.

One of these new fast-casual pizza outposts is making their way to St. Louis. Pie Five Pizza, a regional chain from Houston, is making a home in the St. Louis airport and has plans to expand to 20 locations just in St. Louis! We can’t wait to stop by when they open. Do you have a regional pizza favorite? Let us know in the comment section below and Happy 2015!