What's your pizza order? Plain cheese? Pepperoni? How about lobster, hot Italian sausage and prosciutto with ricotta cheese?
A new study by global marketing company Affinnova sheds light on the toppings that could help pizza chains boost sales. The conclusion: bold flavor combinations will grab customers' attention without cannibalizing sales of more classic toppings.
Affinnova surveyed customers' preferences for dozens of cheeses, sauces, crusts and topping possibilities, producing more than 2.5 billion potential pizza concept combinations. The optimized pies were then tested against in-market specialty pizzas.
The three top-performing pizzas demonstrate that customers are craving some weird flavor mashups. Customers loved the lobster, hot Italian sausage and prosciutto pizza, the BBQ chicken pizza with cilantro and the three-meat pizza with the unexpected trio of sweet Italian sausage, meatballs and buffalo chicken.
"Marketers invest millions of dollars and months of development creating great tasting food products, but taste really doesn’t matter if you can’t drive trial purchases,” Waleed Al-Atraqchi, CEO of Affinnova, said in a statement. “To drive trial purchases a new product must first create an expectation of a great tasting flavor – or an anticipated taste – with the consumer."
The combination of bold flavors is one way to heighten consumer expectations. For example, when measured individually, customers ranked the ingredients in the lobster, prosciutto and sweet Italian sausage pizza in the middle-of-the-pack. However, the combination of the three piqued consumer interest, with the pizza surging to the top of pack.
Even better for pizzerias, Affinnova reports that intense flavor mashups help boost incremental sales without taking sales away from existing products. The study suggests adding a lobster, prosciutto and spicy Italian sausage pizza to Papa John's menu would deliver a 70 percent incremental boost to the pizzas included in the report.
Zany favors and culinary mashups have been dominating the food landscape in recent months. Taco Bell's Waffle Taco and KFC's Chicken Corsage are blowing up social media. Meanwhile, Boston Pizza made waves with the Pizza Cake and Steveston Pizza set records with its $450 lobster and cod pie. Perhaps it is time for the major pizza chains to notice the trend and start mixing up their toppings.