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Last year, several major limited-service chains from Subway and McDonald’s to Panera and Noodles & Co. made announcements with plans to clean up their menus by removing unnecessary additives and using more wholesome ingredients. Among the concepts leading the charge were Yum! Brands Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, which both nixed artificial colors and flavors. Now the latter is taking the charge further.
Today Pizza Hut unveiled more details of its plan to improve the menu along with an accompanying microsite to engage its consumers. Most immediately, the brand will remove BHA/BHT—preservatives often used to prevent oils in foods from becoming rancid—from its meats by the end of July. Next, it will target preservatives in its cheese and medical antibiotics (used to treat humans) in its chicken with a March 2017 deadline.
“We’re constantly working on our quality ingredients. We’ve been doing this since 1958, but most recently in 2012 we worked with trans fats and last year we took out artificial flavors and colors. We’re doing it as it makes sense for both the consumers and makes sense for how we can do it from a food-safety standpoint,” says Jeff Fox, chief brand and concept officer at Pizza Hut. “We’re trying to do all these things as quickly as we can but make sure that we continue to provide the great-tasting pizza product while also balancing that with the supply chain.”
While Fox emphasizes that quality has always been a cornerstone for the brand, the focus for much of its specials and marketing has focused around fun offers and flavors like Stuffed Garlic Knots Pizza, Big Flavor Dippers, and most recently the Bacon Stuffed Crust.
That’s not to say that the brand hasn’t also dabbled in more wholesome campaigns before. In 2014, Pizza Hut introduced the Hand-Tossed Pizza with a thinner crust more akin to the fast-casual variety. Later that year it started testing the Skinny Slice, a lighter option for calorie-conscious consumers.
But as the national conversation veers more toward the quality of those calories than the quantity, Pizza Hut’s new microsite illustrates its history and simple roots. The story starts with the concept’s establishment in 1958 (the brand also turns 58 this year) and video montages include tributes from partner franchisees, farmers, cheese suppliers, and even founder Dan Carney. These are interspersed with footage of idyllic farms fresh tomatoes being sliced and shredded Mozzarella being sprinkled on a pie.
“We haven’t felt the need to talk about quality ingredients every day to our consumers because it’s something that we deliver every day. We’re incredibly proud of the high-quality ingredients,” Fox says. “What we want to provide is food with a story. … Food with a story tastes better.”
By Nicole Duncan