Kids love pizza. Their parents typically love it a lot less these days. Yet because of pizza's kid-friendly position, it appears on a quarter of all kids' restaurant menus, which is significant given their typically limited scope, according to Pizza Market in the U.S.: Foodservice and Retail, 2nd Edition, a recently released report by market research publisher Packaged Facts.
"The family demographic is important for restaurant marketers to target. Pester power and acceptance by kids does influence parent choice in where to dine. As such, it's imperative to ensure kids' menus feature familiar food favorites, like pizza," says Packaged Facts research director David Sprinkle.
Despite the prevalence of pizza on kids' menus, there is a war brewing. The nationwide shift towards health and wellness has put an unflattering spotlight on these circular receptacles of cheesy deliciousness. And with good reason. Pizza tends to have a junk food association and alignment with indulgence. And because of pizza's craveable quality, menu developers work to push the envelope in terms of indulgence to create the unexpected in the form of concoctions that do little to guide pizza in the direction of anything that would ideally be part of a well-balanced diet.
Negatives aside, both the retail and foodservice pizza sectors grew in 2014. Retail sales of frozen and refrigerated pizza exceeded $5 billion, while restaurant pizza sales reached $41 billion last year. Continued growth in both the retail and foodservice pizza markets will require embracing the emphasis on health and wellness. Industry players must work to improve pizza nutritional profiles to create a healthy halo for their retail and restaurant offerings.
"To gain parent approval, focusing on healthier kids' menu items is a top trend. Moving beyond the ubiquitous kids' menu options and putting more thought behind healthy kids' menu items is tantamount to success. Such efforts are essential to repositioning pizza as an option Americans of all ages can feel good about eating," notes Sprinkle. For segments such as frozen pizza, innovation focusing on quality ingredients and natural/organic positioning is necessary to combat attrition. While other pizza industry segments may benefit from utilizing local sourcing to gain traction with the health-conscious crowd, including parents.
California Pizza Kitchen, Pizzeria Locale and Pizza Hut have taken steps to innovate towards healthier options. Likewise, one of the more notable recent menu adjustments came from Applebee's, which in 2014 rolled out a new kids' menu, with 10 meals meeting the standards set forth by the Kids LiveWell initiative. Cheesy Bread Pizza is featured as a new addition. Pizza Market in the U.S.: Foodservice and Retail, 2nd Edition provides industry participants a wealth of insights and information to help them navigate this industry.