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How to stand out with trendy pizza toppings

Pizza toppings present endless opportunities for customization and experimentation! While classic flavours like pepperoni and cheese will always have a place on your menu, exploring new combos is a must if you want to stand out. 

Now that 2021 is in full swing, our Market Insight team analyzed Technomic’s 2020 Canadian Pizza Consumer Trend Report to find out which toppings will be trending throughout the year! Here’s what they found.

Trend report: what diners really want

In 2020, customers’ most-loved pizza trends were unique toppings, alternative doughs, authentic flavours, and customizable menu options. To make the perfect pizza, crust and topping quality were the two most important factors – as opposed to topping quantity, which ranked fifth.

While younger diners are more likely to try adventurous toppings, you can spark interest across demographics by educating consumers. Talk about your pizzas’ flavour profiles and showcase interesting ingredients on your menu, and even on social media.

Most innovative cheese choices for 2021 

During our research, we analyzed emerging cheese trends for 2021. Offering these cheeses as add-on toppings or using them as inspiration for signature pizzas can help put you ahead of the curve – plus, you can charge extra because they're premium ingredients.

Mascarpone or Ricotta: These cheese varieties work well with simple, traditional flavours like olives and garlic, and pair nicely with other fresh mozzarella cheeses like Fior di Latte. You can elevate a simple pizza by adding dollops of mascarpone or Ricotta cheese as a topping.

Burrata: This trendy cheese’s texture is a cross between fresh mozzarella and creamy Ricotta. Serve it whole on top of a pizza so customers can experience splitting it open, and make sure to put it in a separate container for delivery so it doesn’t break. Tip: You can make your own Burrata using Fior di Latte cheese!

Mozzarina di Bufala: This traditional fresh cheese is made with buffalo milk sourced from Canada. It’s perfect on pizzas that have an authentic Italian feel, or innovative pizzas with contrasting toppings – think salty or crispy.

Brie: When paired with a stronger cheese variety like blue cheese, this creamy classic adds excellent depth to pizza. It’s also an interesting option for a luxury breakfast pizza. Feel free to get creative with Brie cheese – it works well with tons of flavours, including sweet notes.

Blue Cheese: This flavour-packed cheese is a great fit for premium customizable pizza menus. It can be used all on its own, or combined with other varieties for extra character. We recommend experimenting with Bleubry cheese, since it’s a mix of two popular pizza cheeses (blue & Brie).

Manchego: This firm Spanish cheese is made with sheep’s milk, featuring a supple texture and fruity notes. It’s a great choice for an exotic gourmet pizza, and can be paired with spices to create a Spanish vibe.

Getting creative with ingredients you already have

  • Unusual toppings: Parsley, cilantro, rosemary, apples, arugula, truffles, capers, asparagus, wild mushrooms, sesame, honey, balsamic vinegar, tuna and chorizo are all gaining traction as creative pizza toppings. For a fun dessert option, chocolate and ice cream pizzas are trending, and toppings like whipped mascarpone could be interesting. You can also play on sweet and salty notes with dishes like this cranberry, apples and blue cheese dessert pizza inspiration.

  • Regional recipes: According to Technomic, the 35+ crowd is drawn to thicker crusts like Montreal-style pizza (no. 1 regional style in Canada for 2020), New York-style, and Chicago-style. Younger diners are more interested in thin-crust pizzas, inspired by European traditions and California’s gourmet culture.

  • Crust type: Thin crust was the most popular pick in 2020, and stuffed crust snagged second. (Our IQF Pizza Mozzarella sticks are perfect for making stuffed crust.) Flavoured crusts, flatbreads, and whole wheat crusts also ranked highly.

  • Pizza mashups: A mashup is a crossover between two popular dishes, like a nacho burger, a cheeseburger pizza or a pizza poutine. Technomic highlighted this trend as particularly popular with younger crowds. For restaurants, mashups are an opportunity to pull in ingredients from other menu items, and consumers get to enjoy the best of both worlds! As a bonus, mashups are usually very indulgent dishes, which perform well on social media.

  • Global inspiration: One significant trend for 2021 is exploring unique flavours from around the world. Asian cuisines like Thai, Indian, and Korean (try out this Korean Bibimbap pizza inspiration) are the most popular, and Mexican flavours are always a great choice. Customers also expressed interest in cultural fusion: think Mexican-BBQ, Thai-Indian, and more.

Exploring new flavours keeps your menu fresh and exciting! You can start with a “pizza of the month” special to create buzz, or give customers the chance to customize their pizza using premium toppings.

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Source: Technomic, 2020 Canadian Pizza Consumer Trend Report

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