Pizza Hut’s “Natural” Pizza

by arnold on January 14, 2009

I was bombarded with ads for Pizza Hut’s new line of all-natural pizzas while watching football last Sunday, and while I scoffed at the concept of an all-natural pizza from Pizza Hut, by halftime of the Eagles/Giants game, I was really hungry and curious enough to go online and order one. It was the first delivery pizza I’ve ordered in years, and honestly, I thought it would be an interesting post. :)

The Natural® Pizza by Pizza Hut

The new pizzas are part of Pizza Hut’s transition to using all-natural ingredients across their entire menu. Here’s some details from Chain Leader magazine:

Pizza Hut’s new ingredients include all-natural sauce from vine-ripened tomatoes with no high-fructose corn syrup; all-natural pepperoni with no artificial preservatives, no nitrites or nitrates added; all-natural Italian sausage with no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives; and 100% real beef with no fillers. Pizza Hut customers will notice the company’s commitment to real taste with a new signature red Pizza Hut pizza box made from 40% recycled materials that will debut across the country today.

All that marketing speak sounds great, but was the pizza good?

I ordered the Natural Rustica Pizza, which featured marinated vine-ripened tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and sliced Rustica Sausage. The toppings were surprisingly good, esp. the tomatoes and peppers. The sausage was okay, but I thought it would have been more “rustica” if it was crumbled sausage instead of sliced sausage.

The weakness of this pizza is the multi-grain crust, which I found kinda spongy. You can see how it sort of resembles the original Pizza Hut crust, but since it’s not fried in oil (which isn’t the point of this pizza anyway), it’s not crunchy and not nearly as tasty. The crust did improve with time as it was pretty good cold out of the fridge since it firmed up a bit. I also heated up a slice in the toaster oven to crisp up the crust and this was definitely the best way to enjoy this pizza.

I’m not a regular Pizza Hut customer and generally shun all forms of delivery pizza, but the reality is that Pizza Hut feeds a lot of people around the world and should be applauded for adopting this all-natural philosophy. I sincerely hope it succeeds and encourages other chain restaurants to follow suit.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Reiter January 15, 2009 at 8:05 am

What I love most about your blog is the fact that you never know what you’ll see on a daily basis. I think the main reason I haven’t had a pizza delivered in years is the fact that Costco’s pizzas are a much better deal and taste just as good if not better.

As a former Pizza Hut driver, I can attest to Pizza Hut’s great marketing ability. They know how to adapt and adjust with the times. I may give this “rustica” pizza a try just to see what their latest marketing tactic. It seems like a wise move given the success of similar pizzas by Papa John’s.

That being said, I don’t think I’ll abandon the value and quality of Costco’s pizzas anytime soon.

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Arnold January 17, 2009 at 12:00 pm

@Paul: I really think they should ditch the multigrain crust and go with a natural version of their standard crust. Or figure out a “healthy” way to replicate the crispiness of standard crust.

Costco makes a good enough pizza, but we stick with the frozen pizzas from Trader Joe’s. They’re the best store-bought frozen pizzas around.

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AJ January 19, 2009 at 11:49 pm

Does Pizza hut really deserve praise for this move? Yes, they certainly seem to have created a nice marketing message, but is there any actual evidence that this pizza is progressive? Sure, I certainly don’t expect pizza hut to move to localized sourcing from small family farms vs agribusiness based factory farms, but in this case I liken it to Judy’s Eggs…I’d more than likely bet that the message oversells the reality of the food. And in my mind, making things more confusing for the consumer is certainly something to damn rather than praise.

Suppose for a moment that it’s not even about sustainable ag, but a simple question of health….which is likely the primary motivator of a casual consumer who chooses “natural” vs “not natural.” Is there any evidence that this pizza is healthier than a conventional pizza hit pizza? I tried going to the pizza hut website to look for comparable…but it seems that only the “natural” pizza information is now available.

Looking at ingredients, they still list items such as citric acid, ascorbic acid (vitamin c), xanthan gum and so on…including sugar. Not to vilify any of those ingredients, but seems that the “all-natural” line is being drawn wherever they want…and I’d consider the production of any of those industrial ingredients to be similar to the process of creating HFCS. In addition, they use another cloudy word “spice extractive”…which I would wager to mean celery juice extract… simply another form of adding nitrite without using Sodium Nitrite specifically. (http://www.meatscience.org/pubs/White%20Papers/Natural_Organic_Cured_Meats.htm). It’s a similar situation to that of HFCS and refined sugar (sucrose)…is one really better than the other? If so, how big is the difference really?

In the end, looking at the production chain, nutrition information and ingredients…I’m not seeing too much promise. In the end the biggest (unanswerable) question is…does this pizza really improve us as eaters, or does it just sell us on a “feel good” notion? Just as “organic” is no guarantor of a sustainable, healthy, or even better tasting food…I think I’ll need a bit more evidence before I can say that pizza hut’s “natural” pizza is progressive or laudable.

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Arnold January 20, 2009 at 12:20 am

@AJ: I’m glad you brought this up and some of your points crossed my mind…especially the liberal use of the words “all natural” and “organic” by corporate agribusiness.

I know I approached this post from a totally superficial perspective, and there’s no doubt that Pizza Hut was motivated by money more than altruism by creating this pizza. I’ll admit that my “praise” for Pizza Hut is a bit overblown, but maybe this move will inspire some other fast food company to do organic and all-natural food the “right” way. That’s a small glimmer of hope, but here’s hoping one of these corporate food giants figures out a way to turn a profit by bringing natural, organic and healthy food to the masses.

That sounds way too idealistic, but we gotta have a dream, right?

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Paul Reiter January 21, 2009 at 4:24 pm

@AJ: I understand your frustration with how the term “organic” and “natural” seem to be used quite liberally and inaccurately by fast food places. It’s precisely the reason that my family eats fast food only occasionally.

The majority of fast food these days is over processed and full of preservatives, chemicals, and fat. I don’t care what label is placed on it. Your best bet is too simply avoid it as much as you can.

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