Pizza has repeatedly ranked in the top foods ordered at U.S. restaurants. According to The NPD Group, in the quarter ending June 2021, there were 1.2 billion servings of pizza ordered, up 4% from the same quarter last year.
An aspect of pizza’s popularity is that it can be customized to serve many different tastes and needs, like the growing interest in plant-based proteins. Units of plant-based protein meat analogues and ingredients shipped from broadline foodservice distributors to pizza operators increased by 56% in the second quarter compared to a year ago, reports NPD.
There is a lot of attention in the marketplace and media about plant-based foods, but there is also interest in these foods from consumers, chefs and restaurant operators. Based on NPD research, about 20% of consumers say that they want to increase the amount of plant-based proteins they consume, and this sentiment has held steady throughout the pandemic.
Chefs and operators see the plant-based protein category as a flexible option for developing recipes and menu offerings that taste good and their guests enjoy. Plant-based is now a staple in their repertoire.
Pizzas enable chefs and operators to customize easily with plant-based ingredients beginning with cauliflower crusts. Broadline shipments of cauliflower dough and crusts to pizza operators increased by 46% in the quarter ending in June compared to the same quarter a year ago.
Unit shipments of plant-based meat analogues to pizza operators, like Italian sausage, chicken and beef analogues, grew by double-digits in the quarter. Plant-based chicken analogue shipments to pizza operators increased by 98%, and plant-based Italian sausage analogues by 72% in the second quarter compared to a year ago, according to NPD’s continual tracking of shipments and dollars from broadline foodservice distributors to commercial and non-commercial foodservice outlets.
The Real California Pizza Contest embraced this trend last year by introducing the Plant Forward category. The combination of fresh, produce-centric toppings and rich, REAL California cheese produced 4 standout recipes that delighted our expert pizza judges at last year’s bake-off. Chef Lars Smith won the inaugural Plant Forward category in last year’s contest with his pizza, Fire on the Mountain, that used Queso Oaxaca and rich Mexican Crema to form a rich foundation for plant-based chorizo, Fresno peppers, and roasted cauliflower.