Caroline Schroeder

Global consumption of pizza is expanding and to capture a larger slice of this diverse and fast-growing pie, pizza industry leaders are responding to consumer dietary, lifestyle and regulatory trends with fresh recipe and ingredient innovation. However, as markets grow, and tastes and regulations change, every segment of the pizza industry is being challenged to deliver more authenticity and taste with less salt and sugar and zero artificial ingredients. 

The Not-So-Frozen Market for Frozen Pizza
Global market and consumption patterns confirm a large majority of people around the world now eat pizza. Information Resources, Inc., (IRI) a Chicago-based research firm, reported that of all consumer goods consumed, frozen pizza ranked third in the “Long-Shelf-Life Food, Health and Cleaning Products and Comfort Items” edible category for 2020. On the refrigerated side, IRI said sales of pizza/pizza kits grew 7.5% to reach about $366.3 million.

Demand for healthier pizza recipes (that also eliminate animal-based proteins) is prompting the industry to innovate recipes and processes. They are looking for innovation from their ingredient suppliers to help them meet new dietary norms without sacrificing texture, flavor and color. 

Sauce color must present like it was ladled straight out of the pot and onto the dough. It then must stay robust and stable throughout every phase of distribution, retailing, and consumption. Therefore, the stability, the color integrity of pizza sauce in particular – in all formats – is essential to the increasing demand for these products with consumers. Naturally sourced color ingredients from Lycored can assure that the color integrity of tomato sauce withstands the rigors of a longer, more complicated supply chain and the need to maintain color more reliably over the entire expected shelf-life of the product.

Testing Confirms Naturally-Derived Color Stability
Lycopene offers pizza food scientists an extended value proposition including long-lasting authentic, fresh tomato sauce color stability with reduced color fade over time. A recent study of ResilientRed A, a versatile color ingredient, demonstrated lycopene’s color stability in frozen pizzas.

Lycored researchers and food scientists wanted to evaluate if adding lycopene-based colors to pizza sauce could improve color stability over the shelf life of a frozen pizza with and without mozzarella cheese. Conducted in real time and under controlled conditions, pizzas with and without mozzarella cheese underwent color analyses at defined test points over a potential frozen pizza shelf life (one year). Color in frozen pizza is prone to turning from red to pale orange over the course of its shelf life. Typically, this occurs over a period of about six months in cold storage. 

Once a pizza reaches retailers the process can accelerate from the myriad site variables that can fade sauce color, and ultimately curtail the product’s shelf life. Color stability is also affected by the amount of sauce. The thinner the pizza sauce layer is, the more noticeable the color change becomes.
 Results reveal that with no color added, the pizza sauce shows significant color change after only three months and continues to change over shelf life. Additionally, scientists concluded that ResilientRed A at 0.05% is recommended for pizzas with no mozzarella and ResilientRed A at 0.1% is recommended for pizzas with mozzarella. 

With lycopene-enhanced stability, color change was significantly delayed by about six months and helped maintain the original visual appearance of pizza sauce over shelf life. The bottom line is that lycopene-based colorants can be used in frozen pizza to extend shelf life, also reducing reclamation costs.

Flavor, Ingredient Diversity and Product Innovation
Although color is extremely important, prepared food and pizza market analysts agree taste will continue to define the international pizza landscape. Recipe innovation is at the forefront of product development and to win new hearts and wallets, traditional combinations (pepperoni or sausage) are being superseded by new meat combinations, as well as creative vegetable crusts, sauces, plant-based toppings and other natural ingredients and spices sourced from the world’s cuisines.

Meeting the world’s growing consumption of pizza offers prepared food manufacturers and developers tremendous opportunity. But even though the format is relatively simple to produce, and the food/ingredient processing at commercial scale generally well understood, the industry will be increasingly challenged to overcome the growing complexities of delivering pizzas to the planet that are healthier – as in organic, natural, clean label and transcend a range of dietary norms.

Diets are changing, pizzas are changing too: Most primary ingredients are already plant-based and with the availability of vegan cheese and plant-based meats, potentially all toppings can be too. Technomic’s 2020 data finds plant-forward options are on the rise, with 23% of consumers interested in gluten-free pizza options and 27% interested in low-carb pizza options. What’s more, 28% of consumers strongly agree that they would eat pizza more often if there were healthier options available.

When it comes to reducing salt in pizzas, some ingredients—such as potassium, calcium, magnesium and choline chlorides, so-called “light” salts (blends of salt and other chemicals) and seasoning herb blends — can all serve as salt substitutes. These ingredients can be used to replace the salt partially or completely in pizza dough. But none of these alternatives taste like regular salt, nor do they behave like salt in the dough system.

Pizza makers are getting creative in trying to increase the apparent saltiness in foods by heightening the umami flavor profile as well. Ingredients like monosodium glutamate (MSG) do create the mouth-watering umami sensation consumers love, but are not ingredients consumers love to see on labels.

Lycored offers both SANTE and CTC as part of their Real Food Ingredients portfolio from the company's highly cultured tomatoes. Both are non-GMO and can be declared as either “tomato concentrate” or “natural flavor” depending on local regulations. SANTE is an umami taste-enhancing solution that allows a reduction in sodium by 30% to 65% in some applications. CTC is a liquid tomato serum that harnesses the balance of acidity and high Brix sweetness of tomatoes to bring smoothness and complexity to savory products.

Lycored evaluated how the addition of their naturally sourced taste enhancer, SANTE, with the reduction of salt and sugar, stacked up in pizza crust and sauce. It also evaluated the effect of adding both of their naturally sourced taste enhancers SANTE and CTC to sauce, which allowed for a 30% salt reduction and total added sugar removal.

Looking at all the trends driving pizza sales and consumption one thing is becoming abundantly clear: for any pizza value chain to succeed globally products have to meet a growing list of consumer and regulatory expectations. The increase of healthy attributes in pizza is a primary driver of prepared food innovation. In light of global trends in diet, health and fitness, the fact is, the fitter, healthier and better for you a pizza is perceived to be, the more likely it will sell. Endless possibilities for a planet-pleasing frozen pizza.


 Caroline Schroeder is marketing communications manager at Lycored.