Pizza Hut, the world’s largest pizza company, is jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon by launching two new gluten-free pizzas on Jan. 26.
Unlike Domino’s gluten-free pizza option, which the company does not guarantee to be completely, absolutely gluten-free because of potential kitchen cross-contamination, Pizza Hut is not messing around.
The Plano, Texas-based company has partnered with Udi’s Gluten Free and the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG). Udi’s, the No. 1 gluten-free brand in North America, is providing the crust. GIG, a nonprofit organization that verifies gluten-free food, provided in-store training to ensure the new pizzas are indeed gluten-free. For real.
“We partnered with the most-respected names in the gluten-free community to develop a best-in-class pizza for those looking to limit gluten in their diet,” said David Gibbs, global CEO of Pizza Hut. “Our gluten-free pizza has all the flavor America has come to expect from a Pizza Hut pizza, which is why we are thrilled to add this great pizza to our lineup.”
The pizzas will come in cheese or pepperoni and will be available at select Pizza Huts nationwide. Each pizza measures 10 inches and is cut into six slices. Prices start at $9.99 (standard topping charges apply). (A 12-inch medium cheese pizza, gluten-full, also costs $9.99.)
To ensure the pizzas aren’t exposed to the tiniest molecule of gluten, the restaurants are taking steps, along the lines of Ebola protective gear.
Udi’s gluten-free crust, as well as the cheese, marinara sauce and pepperoni, will be kept in a designated gluten-free “kit” inside each restaurant. All employees preparing the gluten-free pizza will wear gloves, bake the pizza on parchment paper and use a designated gluten-free pizza cutter.
Even with all of that, Pizza Hut adds this caveat: “Because Pizza Hut kitchens are not gluten-free environments, customers should consult their medical advisor as to what is safe for them.”
Of course, meatballs, Sauce Drizzles and Crust Flavors are excluded, and “Create Your Own” pizza options are not GIG-certified, so deviate at your own risk.
This latest menu move may not be entirely altruistic on Pizza Hut’s part, however. According to a study released in November by London-based market research firm Mintel, sales of gluten-free foods have surged 68% in the United States in the last two years -- even though other studies have shown that only 1% of the U.S. population actually has celiac disease and only about 2.5% suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Still, more and more Americans are convinced that they are sensitive to gluten, and others are following diets such as the Paleo, which eschews grains. According to the Mintel study, 22% of Americans currently follow a gluten-free diet.
It’s a lucrative niche for food businesses: The U.S. gluten-free food market is estimated to have achieved sales of $8.8 billion in 2014, with the most growth in the “snack” segment, and more growth projected for 2015.
One has to wonder, though, about the fact that seemingly health-conscious people would be so concerned about the contents of the crust and give what goes on top of it a pass (one slice of Pizza Hut’s gluten-free pepperoni pizza contains 170 calories, 70 of those from fat, and 490 mg of sodium -- about a third of the American Heart Assn.'s daily recommended amount of sodium).
Setting such logic aside, to see if the gluten-free pizzas will be available in your area, go to pizzahut.com/glutenfree and enter your ZIP Code.
Pizza Hut, a subsidiary of Yum! Brands Inc., is the world’s largest pizza company, with $12 billion in global sales and more than 15,000 restaurants in 93 countries worldwide.
Some of us still prefer Mozza.