To make a pizza, you just need dough, cheese and sauce. To make a great pizza, you need much more than that, say many bakers. Consequently, many pizza manufacturers are sprucing up the category by experimenting with more flavorful and healthful ingredients.

“In response to the upward-trending consumer demand for sprouted grain foods, Better4U Foods launched a line of All Natural Ultra-Thin Multigrain Sprouted Grain Pizzas,” says Amy Lotker, owner and executive vice president of sales and marketing. “Better4U Foods is currently the only manufacturer of a sprouted grain frozen pizza product.”

The Delray Beach, Fla., company’s Sprouted Grain Pizzas come in Bruschetta Style and Old World Veggie options and offer 39 g. of whole grains per serving. “Sprouted grains are sought out for their nutritional benefits, including increased amounts of fiber, vitamins and minerals,” explains Lotker. “Sprouted grains are also encouraged for people with diabetes, as they have a lower glycemic index.” The company plans to launch three more varieties: Four Cheese, Pepperoni and Roasted Vegetable Vegan.

Better4U Foods also has offerings in the gluten-free market, like its personal size Multigrain All Natural Gluten Free Pizzas, which are 7-in. (9.5-oz.) versions of its 10.5-in. Multigrain Gluten Free Pizzas (which range from 18.5 to 21.6 oz.). Options available are Gluten Free Four Cheese; Gluten Free Roasted Vegetable; Gluten Free Pepperoni; Gluten Free Mediterranean; and Dairy Free Gluten Free Roasted Vegetable, which is 100% vegan.

“It can be challenging to use only the freshest and highest quality ingredients and to offer unique varieties that call for more complex preparation,” says Lotker. “Our vegetable toppings are roasted, and our pepperoni is uncured and nitrate-free. We will never be the cheapest pizza on the market, but we will always provide superior taste and nutrition.”

Better4U Foods also offers a Multigrain Shelf Stable Gluten Free pizza crust for those consumers who want to enjoy the company’s whole grains, but who want to make their own pizza creations. “This product, which can keep frozen for one year, or 90 days outside of the freezer, is our first product that can be sold by retailers outside of the freezer aisle,” adds Lotker. “Our pizza crusts alone provide 10 g. of whole grains per serving and allow consumers to top it with their favorite sauce, toppings and seasoning.”


A natural progression


Added emphasis on using all-natural ingredients is prevalent across the baking industry, and pizzas are no exception to this trend. “Recent discussions by the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] to ban all trans-fats within frozen pizza manufacturing supports the argument that today’s consumers want healthier alternatives at fair prices, something Home Run Inn has been committed to from the very beginning,” says Mark Carlson, vice president of operations for the Woodridge, Ill., company. “Our pizzas—fresh or frozen—are all-natural and will continue to be.”

Home Run Inn is set to launch five new pizzas this month, emphasizing its commitment to upscale ingredients that meet consumer demand for high-quality products. The first four releases are classic crust and Ultra-Thin versions of a Savory Italian Sausage blend with Caramelized Onions and an Italian Cheese Blend.

“Lastly, for our health-conscious consumers, we will be extending the low-calorie Ultra-Thin, individual, 6-in. line to include our popular Four Cheese variety, which consists of mozzarella, provolone, cheddar and Romano,” says Carlson.

Other Ultra-Thin 6-in. options offered by Home Run Inn are Cheese; Margherita; Supreme; Sausage; and Sausage and Pepperoni. “We want our customers to be able to know what they are eating without having a Ph.D. in chemistry,” asserts Carlson. “If it isn’t natural, it isn’t going into our product. I think if we all focus on making truly better products, we can collectively drive the pizza segment forward in the coming years.”


Greek expectations


Creating better-for-you products is a priority for many companies, like Kontos Foods Inc., Paterson, N.J. Warren Stoll, marketing director, has noticed an uptick in consumer expectations of Greek foods due to the Greek yogurt trend. “The connections of ‘Greek’ and ‘higher protein’ are what the consumer is seeking,” he says.

In response to this expectation, Kontos recently introduced Greek Lifestyle Flatbread, which offers 15 g. of protein per serving, more protein than most flatbreads. It also contains 21 g. of carbohydrates and 2 g. of sugar per serving.

Beyond the Greek Lifestyle Flatbread, Kontos offers more than 30 varieties of flatbreads inspired by worldly flavors such as Indian, central Asian, Mediterranean and Southwestern.

Using ingredients from around the world is something many pizza manufacturers are doing. Kashi Foods, Battle Creek, Mich., has certainly embraced this trend. “We have seen significant demand for upscale, artisan-style pizzas with unique and progressive ingredients that aren’t just nutritious, but also great tasting,” says John King, marketing director.

Kashi Foods recently released new vegetarian single-serve pizzas in Greek Tzatziki and Indian Tikka Masala. “Kashi Greek Tzatziki single-serve vegetarian pizzas start with a traditional-style stone-fired crust made with Kashi Seven Whole Grains, flax and sesame,” explains King. “They’re then topped with spinach, artichokes, tomatoes, feta, mozzarella and a Greek Tzatziki yogurt, cucumber, dill and garlic sauce. Kashi Indian Tikka Masala single-serve vegetarian pizzas are topped with mozzarella, fire-roasted eggplant, spinach, tomatoes, crushed red pepper and a spicy Tikka Masala sauce.”

Other pizza options offered by Kashi include full-sized Thin Crust Pizzas in BBQ Recipe Chicken; Four Cheese; Margherita; Mushroom Trio and Spinach; Roasted Vegetable; and Mediterranean.

“As a pioneer in the natural food industry, Kashi is passionate about developing great-tasting, nutritious foods that combine unexpected flavors and inspire consumers to live their healthiest life,” says King.


Stepping back to move forward


While jumping into an ethnic food segment is new to some pizza manufacturers, Tandoor Chef, Union, N.J., is working backwards by taking its ethnic foods into the pizza category.

“We started to do something different in terms of merchandising, in which we created our own Indian version of a pizza,” says Mike Ryan, vice president of marketing. “It’s a little Naan pizza that basically takes that famous Indian flatbread, naan, and tops it with Indian fusion-style toppings. We position it in the pizza section.”

Tandoor Chef offers Naan Pizzas in Roasted Eggplant; Margherita; Cilantro Pesto; Spinach and Paneer Cheese; and Jalapeno.

Ryan asserts that more people are turning to the frozen food aisle for a meal solution that’s outside the realm of what they’re used to, which contributes to the success of Tandoor Chef’s products within the pizza category.

“Unique and different is what we had in mind when we developed our line of Naan Pizzas,” he says. “We are able to capture consumer interest because we have the breadth and scope that an Indian restaurant would have.”

Thinking outside the (pizza) box is becoming more important to consumers when pepperoni and cheese just won’t satisfy. This is why General Mills’ Totino’s line has expanded to include new options like Buffalo-Style Chicken Pizza.

“Totino’s Party Pizza has a taste that consumers know and love,” states Shruthi Chandramouli, associate marketing manager. “In order to keep things exciting for our consumers, we have a limited edition line under the bold pizza platform, where we will be launching more interesting flavors such as Buffalo-Style Chicken Pizza.”

Other Totino’s Party Pizza offerings include Canadian Style Bacon; Cheese; Classic Pepperoni; Combination; Hamburger; Pepperoni; Triple Pepperoni; Sausage; Supreme; Triple Cheese; and Triple Meat.

“Consumers are seeking new flavors and styles, so we are constantly looking for ways to bring these more interesting flavors to market,” says Chandramouli.

So what’s next when it comes to pizzas and flatbreads? Further exploration into ethnic and bold flavors along with innovations in creating a more healthful product. As consumers continue to look for fast, easy, flavorful and healthful options, pizza and flatbread makers are up for the challenge.