Pizza topped with prosciutto, fig and arugula
Prosciutto is a trending topping for pizza in full-service establishments.

CHICAGO — Pizza consumption is at its highest level in the past four years, according to a new trend report from restaurant industry tracker Technomic Inc. Americans on average are grabbing a slice four times a month, up from 3.4 pizza occasions in 2014.

Differentiation is more important than ever in this increasingly competitive market, Technomic said. In other words, ordinary toppings just won’t cut it. 

Deanna Jordan, Technomic
Deanna Jordan, manager of consumer insights at Technomic

“Today’s consumers are less beholden to their standard pizza orders, as emerging players push the envelope of what’s expected on a pizza menu,” said Deanna Jordan, manager of consumer insights at Technomic. “New chef-designed specialty pizzas positioned as customizable thought starters will serve to convey kitchen skills and allow for the personalization these consumers increasingly expect.”

Nearly 4 in 10 consumers, up from 32 percent two years ago, say unique toppings are “highly important” in creating a good pizza, and 32 percent of consumers, up from 25 percent in 2014, want to know the nutritional content of the pizza they consume. Though health may be top of mind for nearly a third of consumers, vegetarian pizzas are quickly falling out of favor in both limited- and full-service restaurant segments according to Restaurant Business, Technomic’s sister publication.

Sriacha pizza
In the limited-service pizza segment, spicy flavors such as sriracha and buffalo sauce are surging.

The report also notes differences in consumer preferences for pizza in limited-service restaurants and full-service restaurants. Chicken has become increasingly common on pies in limited-service concepts, while prosciutto is a trending topping in full-service establishments, Restaurant Business said. And while traditional tomato sauce remains the most popular option on full-service menus, it’s disappearing faster than other sauces in the limited-service segment, where such spicy flavors as sriracha and buffalo sauce are surging.