This week, I attended the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, where I was able to experience firsthand new flavor, crust, and topping innovations, as well as see new equipment and ingredients.
One thing is for sure: come to Pizza Expo hungry, and come ready to try new flavor combinations that may cause you to think “Wait, really?”, at least at first.
At the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board booth, I tried many different combinations, such as a Sweet Heat Feta with Greek yogurt pizza – I don’t like spicy foods, but the Greek yogurt tempered the spice. I’m also not a fan of blue cheese, but their Mascarpone & Monteforte bleu pizza was an interesting combination.
Fan of Mexican food? The booth also has an Oaxaca pico de gallo pizza – I never would have imagined that pico de gallo would go well with pizza, but on a flatbread, it was delicious. The Chihuahua cheese with jalapeno and chorizo pizza had a kick to it, too, but also was tasty.
The Milk Marketing Board’s Reserve Gorgonzola & white sauce pizza was a unique combination, as well – Gorgonzola is a cheese that not everyone may like, but pairing it with the white sauce made for a flavorsome treat.
The Board said that pizza used to be all about the crust, but is now about topping and low carb combinations. Fresh ingredients and lighter flavors are currently trending, too.
Ardent Mills, however, was experimenting with different crust and flour combinations at their booth, and I was able to try a Quinoa flatbread, which was quite delicious. They recommend pairing Quinoa crusts with toppings like fire-roasted corn, poblano chili salsa, avocado, grilled beef, or pork. Buckwheat, rye, and barley crusts are on their radar too, and they can even craft custom mixes for their customers who want something more personalized.
Soon, I had to start turning down food samples—so much pizza!—but that didn’t stop me from tasting the “Chicken Boat Loader” at the Tyson Foodservice booth, comprised of chicken with a hollowed-out center, which they then filled with cheese and sausage. I didn’t pass up their dessert selections, either, such as Bourbon Brownie Bites. Tyson Foodservice now goes by Tyson Foodservice Teams, I learned, too, which is comprised of small, specialized teams focused on its main channels, including restaurant, college and university, K-12, healthcare, convenience, hospitality and military. This follows their acquisition of Hillshire Farm, which expended their line of products—deli-style meats are now included.
Their bread selections at the booth were “perfectly imperfect,” they explained, because people want to see authenticity and something that looks handmade. The company strives for “authentically crafted, all-natural products,” especially those that are associated with a “health halo.”
Consumers are also on a flavor exploration, says Tyson Restaurants: we want things that are familiar, yet new, and we tend to gravitate towards products that are unique and stand out from the crowd.
Not to be overlooked, there were even some snack companies at the expo promoting other non-pizza foods: Inventure Foods, under its Boulder Canyon line, had samples of its newest flavors on hand, and I was able to try a better-for-you potato chip, made with avocado oil. It tasted just as good as a "normal" potato chip, and even though I wouldn’t still wouldn’t classify chips as a “healthy” snack, you’re able to feel a little less guilty about indulging. Boulder Canyon also has chips made with olive oil, and even coconut oil, if you’re looking for something different.
If you’re looking for an interesting flavor combination in tortilla chips, check out the newest from Snyder’s-Lance: I snagged a snack-size bag of its Late July brand tortilla chips, which I later devoured at home—a Jalapeno Lime flavor, which packed a lot of spice, but was still very tasty.
For those who eat gluten-free or are looking to ingest less carbs, the Caulipower booth was an interesting treat: their pizza crusts are entirely made out of cauliflower, and boast less carbs and sugar, as well as more fiber, as compared to traditional pizza crusts. I had heard about the Caulipower brand even before the Expo, and was surprised by how good the crust tasted – it tasted similar to other gluten-free (bread) pizza crusts that I’ve tried in the past.
The main takeaway from the Pizza Expo is that brands are looking to experiment with new flavors and innovations — and that consumers are more than happy to devour these new flavor combinations.