Pizza has repeatedly ranked in the top foods ordered at U.S. restaurants. According to The NPD Group, in the quarter ending June 2021, there were 1.2 billion servings of pizza ordered, up 4 percent from the same quarter last year. An aspect of pizza’s popularity is that it can be customized to serve many different tastes and needs, like the growing interest in plant-based proteins. Units of plant-based protein meat analogues and ingredients shipped from broadline foodservice distributors to pizza operators increased by 56 percent in the second quarter compared to a year ago, reports NPD.
There is a lot of attention in the marketplace and media about plant-based foods, but there is also interest in these foods from consumers, chefs, and restaurant operators. Based on NPD research, about 20 percent of consumers say that they want to increase the amount of plant-based proteins they consume, and this sentiment has held steady throughout the pandemic. Chefs and operators see the plant-based protein category as a flexible option for developing recipes and menu offerings that taste good and their guests enjoy. Plant-based is now a staple in their repertoire.
Pizzas enable chefs and operators to customize easily with plant-based ingredients beginning with cauliflower crusts. Broadline shipments of cauliflower dough and crusts to pizza operators increased by 46 percent in the quarter ending June compared to the same quarter year ago. Unit shipments of plant-based meat analogues to pizza operators, like Italian sausage, chicken, and beef analogues, grew by double-digits in the quarter. Plant-based chicken analogue shipments to pizza operators increased by 98 percent and plant-based Italian sausage analogues by 72 percent in the second quarter compared to a year ago, according to NPD’s continual tracking of shipments and dollars from broadline foodservice distributors to commercial and non-commercial foodservice outlets.
“Plant-based is no longer just a niche player in the foodservice market. It’s a mainstream ingredient that appeals to a broad section of consumers,” says Tim Fires, president of NPD’s SupplyTrack service. “It makes perfect sense that a popular food, like pizza, would now offer plant-based options.”