What’s New in Health and Wellness Pizza?

Pizza’s universal popularity and unfortunate junk food reputation make it a frequent target for health-food makeovers. Euromonitor International looks at some promising recent trends in health and wellness-positioned pizza, including the addition of seaweed to “cure” its nutritional shortfalls, natural-functional hybrids as an indication that the ‘natural’ trend is evolving, the potential for the children’s market, and brand extensions.

Versatility a Recipe for Success

Pizza definitely is popular. Euromonitor International’s packaged food data shows that frozen and chilled pizza combined account for 17% of total global value sales of ready meals in 2013. Convenience rules, even for health and wellness-motivated shoppers, and healthier versions of popular ready meals, including pizza, are high in demand. In 2013, global retail value sales of HW ready meals amounted to US$9.1 billion, and by 2018, the category is projected to reach US$10.0 billion.

Arguably Italy’s number one food export, many of today’s pizza offerings are a far cry from its humble origins centred around a wheat crust base, tomato, mozzarella and some basil. Pizza has proven infinitely adaptable and shines in its ability to please taste buds the world over, albeit often to the detriment of nutrition.

Indeed, if a random person in the street was asked to name the ultimate junk foods, pizza would undoubtedly feature in the top five. Depending on the topping, commercially available pizzas tend to be laden with saturated fat and salt, while not offering much in terms of nutritional value, besides carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

Nutritionally Deficient

In a study carried out by Scottish researchers and published in the journal Public Health Nutrition in October 2013, the nutritional value of 25 commercial pizzas was analysed. For ease of comparison, all the pizzas were of the margherita variety, which traditionally consists of crust, tomato sauce and cheese.

For the majority of the pizzas analysed, the quantity of sodium turned out to be substantially above the recommended limit, and none of the products met the requirements in terms of iron, vitamin C and vitamin A expected from a main meal. Only one item achieved the required level of calcium, despite all of the products containing cheese.

On the positive side, only eight products were found to have too much saturated fat, but it has to be borne in mind that, had products sporting three cheese or pepperoni toppings been included, this would have pushed up the saturated fat levels significantly.

Eat Balanced Pizza Powered by Seaweed

The motivation behind the aforementioned study was not just to point the finger at pizzas’ nutritional defects, but to produce a commercially viable, superior version. In fact, the researchers, drawn from a number of institutions, including the University of Glasgow and Glasgow Royal Infirmary, have collaborated with the industry to produce the Eat Balanced frozen pizza brand, which made its way onto UK supermarket shelves in 2012.

Eat Balanced comes in three varieties – Spicy Chicken, Cheese & Tomato, and Ham & Pineapple – and, containing 47 essential nutrients, is designed to provide 30% of an average adult’s daily amount of vitamins and minerals. Besides incorporating nutrient-dense red pepper paste into the tomato sauce, the “magic ingredient” employed by the researchers is ground up seaweed sourced from Scotland. Seaweed does not only contain a comprehensive range of vitamins, minerals and trace elements, but it also tastes very salty, despite only containing 3.5% sodium, compared to table salt’s 40%. This has enabled the creators to keep added salt to a minimum.

In November 2013, Eat Balanced Ltd announced that it had started trialling “the world’s first nutritionally balanced pizza for kids” in nurseries, play centres and schools. Pizza is infamously popular with children, and, if executed well, this could turn into a resounding success for the company, with a retail range of Eat Balanced children’s pizzas soon to feature on the menu.

Naked Pizza – a Natural-Functional Crossover

Naked Pizza is a US company that has ventured even further down the healthy pizza route. The company, which started as a single store in New Orleans in 2006, and which has since been expanding its franchise business primarily along the Eastern Seaboard, launched its line of frozen pizzas two years ago in October 2011.

Naked Pizza crusts are made from a proprietary blend (Ancestral Blend) of 10 seeds and grains, including quinoa, amaranth, teff, spelt and oats. Inulin, a prebiotic fibre, has also been added for digestive, bone and weight management benefits.

In summer 2012, Naked Pizza forged a deal with probiotic ingredients manufacturer Ganeden Biotech, and since then, the company’s pizza crusts have contained GanedenBC30. According to the supplier, this ingredient “demonstrates substantial immune and digestive health benefits”.

The fat content (and therefore calories) is kept to a feasible minimum through the use of skimmed-milk mozzarella, and the products’ weight management credentials are further enhanced by a low glycaemic index score. Gluten-free versions are also available.

Naked Pizza is an interesting example of a product that is positioned as staunchly ‘natural’, as implied by the term “naked” in the brand name, while promoting a number of functional qualities, including digestive and bone health.

In its literature, the company puts great emphasis on the 100% naturalness of its product, but it is unlikely that consumers would expect to find ingredients like ‘exotic’ grains, such as amaranth and teff, never mind a probiotics product like inulin, in a pizza. This indicates that the concept of ‘natural’ is starting to embrace all manner of healthy ingredients, rather than remaining constrained to a more ‘purist’ interpretation.

Kellogg Leverages Kashi’s Wholesome Image to Venture into Pizza

For a slightly more mainstream HW pizza option, Kellogg announced in December 2013 that it had introduced a new line of single-serve vegetarian pizzas under its Kashi brand name. Kashi is the US’s 17th-ranked health and wellness brand (2012), and its products are particularly prominent in breakfast cereals, cookies, crackers and snack bars, but it also offers healthy frozen entrees such as pasta and risotto dishes. Hence, the brand’s recent foray into frozen pizza is not such a long shot at all.

Kellogg is homing in on the thus far still underexploited niche with its two varieties of Kashi pizza: Greek Tzatziki; and Indian Tikka Masala. The products are made from seven whole grains, with added flax and sesame seeds and plenty of vegetables, including spinach and aubergine.

Top Growth Markets

Health and wellness-positioned pizzas are not only here to stay, but they are destined for a long-term growth trajectory. HW pizzas have global appeal as a convenience food, and one that is easy enough to “healthify”. Its unrivalled popularity with young consumers is also going to be a driving factor behind company’s new product development efforts, particularly with ever more regulations encroaching on the school cafeteria environment in terms of the nutritional composition of the food on offer.

Another anticipated development is an increasing number of brand extensions, ie healthy pizza launches by organic and natural players not previously involved in the pizza category.

Over the 2008-2013 review period, the most dynamic growth markets for HW ready meals were Argentina, Mexico, Finland, Poland, Norway, Switzerland, Italy and Australia. These are all markets where pizza is highly popular and where a proliferation of health and wellness-positioned pizzas is expected over the forecast period.