Americans Can’t Get Enough of Pizza

Healthier toppings are trending, and breakfast pies are showing up on more menus. 

July 14, 2021

Woman Taking Pizza Slice

CHICAGO—Pizza won big time last year, providing one of the few bright spots for the foodservice industry, SmartBrief reports. Pizza restaurants, like many foodservice establishments, pivoted to more off-premises sales in 2020.

Before the pandemic hit, more than half of all operator pizza sales happened on site for dining in, with takeout pizza grabbing a third and delivery around 12%, according to Datassential’s Pizza Keynote survey. However, over the past 12 months, pizza delivery jumped 19%, and carryout nabbed nearly half of all pizza sales at 48%.

How consumers got their pie fix has shifted as well, with more sourcing their pizzas from non-restaurant options, like convenience stores and supermarkets. Many also started picking up frozen pies, take-and-bake pies, or premade dough balls and pre-cooked crusts to “cook” at home.

Casey’s, for example, is the fifth-largest pizza chain in the United States. The Ankeny, Iowa-based convenience retailer incorporated a pizza program in the early 1980s, and today, pizza is the crown jewel of the chain’s overall prepared foods program. Casey’s makes its dough fresh every morning and is continuously innovating new pizza tastes (see “Casey’s Leans Into Growth” in NACS Magazine).

When it comes to flavors and toppings industrywide, healthier pizzas are on the rise, with cauliflower and gluten-free pizza crusts growing in popularity. Arugula, kale and avocado top the list of the fastest-growing pizza toppers, and consumers are experimenting with plant-based meats on their pies.

The fastest-growing pizza type is vegan, soaring 187% on menus over the past three years. For options, stuffed crusts and nontraditional flavors, like Mexican, Thai and Hawaiian, have increased 58% on menus since 2018. Forecasters predict breakfast pizza, which is on 2.9% of pizza menus, will jump 15% over the next four years.

Breakfast pizza is on the menu of Nashville, Tenn.-based Hunt Brothers, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The specialty pizza includes scrambled eggs, chopped bacon, breakfast sausage and a blend of mozzarella and cheddar cheese on a buttered crust. Hunt Brothers offers turn-key pizza programs so even the smallest convenience retailers can add this foodservice offer to their lineup.

Convenience retailers in the market for a turnkey pizza solution at their stores can find what they’re looking for at this year’s NACS Show, taking place October 5-8 in Chicago.

To read more about America’s latest cravings, including pizza, read “Fresh From the Kitchen” in NACS Magazine.