Premium Toppers Are the Next “Big Things” In Pizza

Premium Pizza Toppers
No surprise here…pizza is a staple of the American diet. But a growing number of diners are interested in expanding their pizza repertoire beyond such favorites as mushroom and onion. And don’t get me wrong—classic meats like pepperoni and sausage aren’t going away anytime soon! But there’s definitely an opportunity to look at the bigger picture and apply some of the industry’s overall flavor and ingredient trends to the pizza category.

By the numbers:

  • 83% of consumers eat pizza at least once a month
  • 28% of consumers (including 43% of those ages 18-34) are more interested in pizza with unique toppings now than they were two years ago
  • 49% of consumers want restaurants to offer more authentic pizzas

The growth of DIY pizza chains goes to show that variety is key. Those locations offer up dozens of meats, veggies, cheeses and even finishing sauces to ensure that every patron can create the perfect meal. While you may not have the operational capacity to follow this “build your own” concept, you can take inspiration from the range of ingredients these restaurants feature. On the protein side, think sweet fennel sausage, meatballs and salami—meats that are appealing to a large consumer base, but with a more premium connotation.


Nothing beats the classics, but we’re starting to see a wider variety of proteins appearing on pizzas, especially in independent restaurants.

Reimagining the classics

Another approach to innovation is by rethinking the pizza as a platform for showcasing the flavors of well-known dishes from across the menu. Take a look at some of the pizzas showing significant growth on restaurant menus over the past four years:

There’s no limit to the menu possibilities! Personally, I love turning classic sandwiches into pizzas—such as a Reuben Pizza with shredded corned beef or shaved pastrami, cheese, onions and sauerkraut. Or, capitalize on the popularity of authentic global sandwiches with a Pizza Cubano, topped with roasted pork, shaved ham, Swiss cheese, honey mustard and pickles. Another approach: take a classic comfort food like chicken nuggets and add some bold flair for grown-up tastes—a Popcorn Chicken Pizza with mozzarella and drizzles of honey and sriracha.

I always remind my customers that contrast is the key to a delicious pizza—and that means considering texture, flavor and temperature in every bite. The popcorn chicken pizza mentioned above, for example, features crispy breaded chicken with gooey, salty cheese, spicy sauce, sweet honey and chewy dough for the ultimate craveworthy combination. Or, try serving up a crispy flatbread with steak strips, a warm runny egg and chilled arugula.

Creating menu magic with West Liberty Foods

When it comes to innovative pizza toppings, our versatile chicken, beef, pork and turkey products can truly set your pies apart from the competition.

  • Crumbles in a variety of flavor profiles, such as taco meat and chorizo
  • Water-cooked chunked or shredded meats, including pulled pork and braised chicken
  • Sliced or shaved meats, like pastrami, prime rib and Black Forest ham
  • Fajita-style strips
  • Popcorn chicken/breaded products

Consumer interest in premium pizzas is only going to grow, so let’s work together to create some fresh new concepts that will bring excitement to your menu. Contact me to learn more about innovation and differentiation in the pizza category.

– Chef Aliza

Datassential MenuTrends, U.S. menu penetration growth 2013-2017.
Datassential, “Pizza: the SNAP™ food profile,” August 2017.
Liz Barrett, “The 2018 Pizza Power Report: A State-of-the-Industry Analysis,” PMQ, December 2017.
Nico Roesler, “Consumer pizza preferences evolving,” Food Business News, June 6, 2017.
Technomic, “The 2018 Pizza Consumer Trend Report,” April 2018.
Techomic MenuMonitor, 2017.