Whether they’re going posh in Pizza Express or casual in Pizza Hut, having it delivered, taking it away, buying it from the freezer or chiller of a shop or even making their own, seven out of 10 people in the UK are eating pizza, according to research company Mintel.

The world of pizza is clearly a world of opportunities and options for the consumer, before you even start discussing bases and toppings. So is it a saturated market that bakers would do well to avoid?

Well no, Mintel suggests that there is also room to increase frequency of consumption in pizza. When it compiled its last report in 2008, half of adults who ate pizza only did so once a month at most.

And rival research company Euromonitor argues there is still significant mileage for foodservice operators and independents, including bakers, to cash in, taking sales away from the established brands and the supermarkets. But you have to pitch it right and the growth in the market is coming from premium offers, says the company.

Look for example at Gondola Holdings, which operates the upmarket PizzaExpress, ASK and Zizzi brands. It has seen sales rise steadily over the last five years as demand increases for its pizzas despite the economic gloom.

The group favours fresh ingredients and a thin crust base, offering something close to the traditional authentic Italian pizza experience, rather than the American pizza experience.

Rival and more "value" operator Pizza Hut, owned by Yum! Brands, says it has recently introduced thinner crust Tuscani pizzas, in a change of direction from its promotions-orientated approach, although Chicken Supreme, Pepperoni Feast, and Vegetable Supreme remain its best selling pizzas.

Meanwhile, the key takeaway operator is Domino’s Pizza, which has 571 UK outlets. It says it is focused on consumer convenience such as online and mobile phone ordering. The goal is to make its offer more convenient for the consumer than putting a packaged pizza in the oven. Sales were up 10.5% for the first quarter of 2010. Its best selling topping is Pepperoni Passion.

Jason Bull sales director of supplier Eurostar Commodities comments: "I feel the pizza market as a whole is still in growth, due to the demand for higher quality and authentic ingredients such as genuine 00 Italian flours for pizza bases. Manufacturers are getting much more creative in this very tough environment, to set themselves apart from others and provide a competitive edge."

He says he hopes to spawn a new age of pizzas that are good for your health with two products due to launch this month. These are Gran Fibre, a high fibre, low fat cereal flour mix, and Pane Rustici.

Unique selling point

In a crowded marketplace it is harder for operators to find a unique selling point and make their pizza offering stand out, comments Warren MacFarlane, marketing manager at dairy group Lactalis McLelland.

"One way to achieve this is to make your pizza taste as authentic as possible. Here the use of genuine Italian toppings and ingredients is a must, such as our range of Galbani Italian cheeses.

"Operators looking to add a touch of class to their menu should consider tasting our PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) cheeses," he suggests. "With customers’ perception of quality versus value for money being higher than ever, operators need to offer premium products. Using PDO Italian cheese on menus will clearly illustrate their point of difference in a crowded market. Why not advertise the fact your menu contains cheeses that come from a particular region in Italy, and add real gravitas?"

Bakers have another advantage when it comes to gravitas. A skilled baker should easily be able to make a decent pizza base.

And for the bakery operator, pizzas can in fact be an extremely cost effective sideline. Pizza dough is relatively cheap and simple to make - even if you are using top quality grains.

What’s new? Sunspice Oils

What are Sunspice Oils?
A collection of oils flavoured with herbs and spices, including garlic, onion, oregano and basil. Sunspice Collection oils are intense and offer an easy way to bring the character of fried herbs and spices to pizza bases, toppings and breads. They are heat-stable, simple to use and a natural means of giving dishes an authentic flavour profile.

What’s so special about them?
The Sunspice flavours enable the full, cooked flavour of fried herbs and spices to be integrated into a dish, without the need for high heating of other ingredients. This preserves nutrients and significantly boost the impression of freshness in the finished product.

Why should manufacturers buy this?
The Sunspice Collection can help manufacturers create products with premium and gourmet positionings, focusing on the quality and provenance of ingredients without the storage and food safety issues associated with fresh or frozen herbs and spices.

So explain the techie stuff.
Manufactured by Symrise, Sunspice is created by frying the culinary ingredients in vegetable oil. They are free of added flavour enhancers, dyes, and GM ingredients and can be declared either as natural flavours or as the individual herb or spice.

Bottom line, what’s the benefit to the manufacturer?
The oils are simple to use, mix and meter, and offer an easy way to flavour food compared to fresh herbs and spices no frying necessary.
Questions posed to Alie Coppolella, technical manager, S Black

Product Update

Touch pad control
Lincoln Countertop Impinger ovens from Manitowoc Foodservice UK now come with a digital touch pad as a standard feature on the front of the oven.
The new push-button control panel gives operators the ability to quickly and easily set conveyor direction, speed, and temperature. The new controls also feature four preset menu buttons with digital time and temperature display.
The oven incorporates a 16-inch wide conveyor belt and 20-inch baking chamber and can be stacked up to two high. In most applications ventilation is not required.
The updated model now includes a more robust conveyor motor, a broader range of oven temperatures from 32ºC to 315ºC and a wider range of conveyor speeds.
Take it to the topping
Rectory Foods, global supplier of quality poultry and food ingredients, has launched a new range of frozen chicken products for the bakery sector under its Hot Chicken Company (HCC) brand.
The company says that chicken is a good value source of protein for bakers and baked goods manufacturers to create a variety of pizza toppings that customers know and love, from the traditional to more inventive products.
Nick Bowyer, MD at Rectory Foods, comments: "Chicken toppings are not only filling for hungry customers, but are often viewed as healthier than red meat or pepperoni alternatives."
The HCC range features frozen, steam-cooked, roast or flavoured premium chicken breast pieces.
These are available in strips (10/12mm), slices (5mm) and cubes (10/12mm) and are ideal for bakers to add to a range of dishes, from fresh pizzas, sandwiches, baguettes, paninis, bagels, wraps and croissants, as well as pies.
Keeping a lid on sauce
Decorating lines providing a wide range of options for both edge-free and total coverage pizzas are a speciality of the Tromp group.
Edge-free decorating systems ensure that sauce and toppings are contained within a specific area of the base, says the Shrewsbury-based company. They feature automatic positioning of pizza bases on foam or cardboard discs, and a servo-driven sauce depositor designed so that herbs and pieces can be included.
An equalizer spreads out the sauce before a target applicator adds cheese, meat, fish and vegetables.
A continuous line for total coverage of the pizza base is modular to allow for extension. A waterfall enrober applies a constant, controlled layer of sauce, then a continuous strewing system adds a full selection of toppings onto any pizza shape, with a re-circulating system minimising waste.
These sophisticated systems feature a sensor driven pizza tracking system. All parameters can be adjusted on a single touch-screen, and saved for recall on the next production run.