CHICAGO – Taste, ease and value are what lead consumers to choose pizza over other meal options, according to foodservice industry consultant Technomic. In a new company study, 62% of those polled say their most recent away-from-home pizza purchase was driven by a craving, followed most closely by 25% reporting it was more convenient than cooking. Approximately one-fifth said price, coupons and promotions influenced the decision.

These findings are included in Technomic’s new Pizza Consumer Trend Report, which is designed to help operators and manufacturers better understand the changing pizza landscape and capitalize on opportunities for growth.

Other findings include:

• Most consumers (93%) eat pizza at least once a month, and the average consumer eats pizza nearly three times per month.

• Consumers said they have been trading down when it comes to pizza by cutting back on restaurant purchases.

• More consumers today are buying frozen pizza than were buying it in 2008 (81% compared to 74%).

• The quality perception of frozen pizza has improved. Today, 30% of consumers think frozen pizza is of equal or better quality than restaurant pizza, as compared to 15% two years ago.

• Close to one-fifth of consumers (17%) say new items influence where they buy pizza, highest among those aged 18-24 years (22%).

• Two out of five consumers (41%) say they would like pizza establishments to offer healthier ingredients, examples being whole wheat crusts (42%), organic toppings and crusts (30% and 28%, respectively), and all-natural and locally-sourced ingredients (50% and 38%).

Specialty and signature pizzas are now being featured by limited-service pizza chains to differentiate themselves from local independents.

“Operators and suppliers will want to consider what they can do to elicit consumer cravings through adding new items to their menus and emphasizing them through their marketing message,” said Darren Tristano, Technomic executive vice president. “Differentiation through pizzas that feature unique flavors and taste combinations that consumers cannot purchase elsewhere or make at home will likely help support this effort. Positioning pizza as a meal solution that is easy, convenient and affordable will resonate with many consumers.”