Explained: Why pizza is so popular

The fast food business has seen better times. In 2014 McDonald’s annual global revenues fell for the first time in 12 years. As consumers become more health conscious, cheap fast food seems to be losing its appeal. But there is a striking exception to this downward trend, explains The Economist.

People may be buying fewer takeaway burgers, but they have a growing appetite for pizza, from both independent pizzerias and pizza chains. One of them, Domino’s Pizza, saw its global sales jump by 14% in the last quarter of 2014, compared with a year earlier. Sales outside the US grew for the 84th consecutive quarter. What accounts for the growing popularity of pizza?

Pizza has long been a favoured form of inexpensive fast food in Italy, where people started putting tomato on flatbread sometime in the 18th century. In the early 20th century, Italian immigrants popularised pizza in America. Demand boomed after WW II, thanks to returning American soldiers who had gained a taste for pizza in Italy.

Today, pizza is benefiting from the trend towards healthy cooking. People assume that pizza, with fresh toppings often including vegetables, must be healthier than a burger. In fact, a medium-sized vegetarian pizza can have as much as four times as many calories as a Big Mac.

Pizza has also benefited as consumers reined in their spending after the financial crisis; ordering a pizza delivery is cheaper than going out to eat. In spite of the economic recovery, takeaways have stayed popular as household budgets remain squeezed.

But the secret ingredient that keeps consumers hooked on pizza is menu innovation. Pizza chains are constantly coming up with alluring new variations of their product, such as pizzas with crusts stuffed with bacon and cheese, to maintain consumers’ interest and loyalty. Cleverer still, these novelty pizzas are difficult to cook at home.

No wonder pizza accounts for a growing slice of fast-food consumption.

Source: The Economist

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