Cheese…now the most important – and most creative – pizza ingredient

07.04.18

2018’s pizza consumer is a tough one to please. The days are long gone when a standard margherita, pepperoni or marinara would satisfy the significant majority.

No, today we want ‘choice’. A choice of base…thick, thin, gluten-free, cauliflower. A choice of crust…stuffed or otherwise. And a choice of toppings that would do justice to the longest à la carte menu.

In essence, the name of the game is ‘artisan’, with pizza lovers demanding premium restaurant-quality pizza, irrespective of whether we’re dining out, grabbing something off the supermarket shelf, or having our favourite food delivered from a box on the back of a bike.

But while food manufacturers and the food service industry are all searching for the magic formula, the secret of getting off to a cracking start is already under everyone’s nose.

 

Cheese…but not as you may know it.

With a few notable exceptions, a pizza isn’t a pizza unless it’s laden with cheese. But forget the idea that this simply means a generous topping of Mozzarella.

Yes, this classic pizza ingredient is still a chart-topper. But a new wave of pizza chefs is now discovering how to mix and match with other cheeses that can enhance flavour, transform appearance, and add to the profit margin.

As a rule of thumb, the easiest answer is to start with 80% Mozzarella and then add a mature Cheddar or the distinctive flavour notes of Provolone or Fontal, Colby or Monterey Jack.

But why only settle for the simple when you could be creating something totally unique? Imagine the impact of using a real hickory, apple or oak-smoked Cheddar. How about a fiery chilli cheese? Or maybe a cheese infused with freshly cracked black pepper?

 

The Insights & Marketing team at food ingredients giant, Ornua Ingredients UK, is fully in tune with this rapidly developing trend.

“We’ve always been at the forefront in terms of developing innovative ingredients. But today, we’re putting our considerable market insight to good use by working with customers to develop the tastes that will drive the market forward.”

“Right now that means we’re introducing flavours and textures that offer huge appetite appeal, but which still enjoy all the melt and stretch capabilities that the perfect pizza needs.”

 

“Looks good enough to eat”

While taste is the usual benchmark in judging a fantastic pizza, appearance is all-important too. Again, cheese is the surprisingly easy way to create additional visual appeal,

Red Leicester and Double Gloucester are just two of the ways to add the premium feel of a named territorial, without adding to ingredient costs.

The cheese format also plays a big part, something OIUK’s NPD department is constantly working on.

“We live in an Instagram world”, says OIUK’s Richard Thorpe, “with countless millions sharing pictures of food every day. So visual appeal and appetite-whetting presentation are a vital part of building a successful brand.”

“That’s why – hand-in-hand with our customers’ requirements – we’re making all our most popular pizza cheeses available in formats which allow chefs the freedom to be really creative.“

“Now, instead of simply offering a wealth of grated and shredded options, we produce pizza cheese in a diced format, or as ribbons, shavings or ‘match-sticks’. We’re expanding our range of cheese ropes too, along with a creamy béchamel sauce.”

With cheese providing this perfect background canvas, it’s then just a matter of letting the imagination run free, adding all the usual (or the unusual) favourites to complete the perfect topping, helped on their way by a sprinkling of umami-rich ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes, spicy beef or a drizzle of balsamic syrup.

 

And the best news of all…

So, there you have it. The quickest and simplest way to add extra appetite appeal to a pizza is to be inventive with cheese. But the really good news is that modern technology allows us to do this in a highly cost effective way.

OIUK’s Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) cheese has opened up a world of flexibility, efficiency and consistency for the pizza sector.

IQF means perfect portion control, zero waste, and individual pieces of cheese which don’t stick together, making presentation easier than ever.

All of which adds up to visibly added value…at a noticeably reduced cost.

Pizza anyone?

 

This article first appeared in Pizza & Pasta Magazine, April 2018

Ornua Ingredients UK produces a quarterly Food Trends Update. For your free subscription, email richard.thorpe@ornua.com