UK Pizza Development: Three action areas for food brands in 2024

Insights Lab highlights three pizza innovation interest areas for UK food development teams to consider for 2024, spotlighting key innovators and delivering potential action points
Cheese and tomato pizza
As a concept, the pizza has practically universal appeal, be it for those seeking a fast and flavourful midweek meal at home, or as an affordable-yet-indulgent restaurant option driven by freshly-made dough and high-quality toppings.

From a category insight point of view, the cost-of-living crisis is once again a key consideration when analysing the challenges and successes of pizza across both foodservice and retail this past year.

Value perception is of huge importance to many brands and operators in this space. From dine-in pizza deals and affordable quality offered by major supermarkets, to myriad discounts and app-led loyalty schemes harnessed by pizza delivery chains; the battle for cash-conscious consumer attention continues with aplomb.

Then there's the casual dining sector and the reports of mid-market chains' "fight for survival" due to plummeting footfall and inevitable outpost closures. However, if we focus on pizza-centric operators in this space; there have been plenty of positive pivots and even talk of expansion among those offering fresh takes and signature styles.
Yard Sale Pizza recently unleashed a collab with Mexican spot, Sonora Taquería. The 'La Sonorense' features slow cooked beef barbacoa, red onions, fresh jalapeños and house salsa verde.
London-based duo Zia Lucia and Yard Sale Pizza are two such examples here, with PizzaExpress arguably the most established name looking to revitalise and capitalise with its exclusive delivery platform, refurbished restaurants, and new menu offerings.

Of course, consumer drivers for pizza aren't limited to simple affordability, as without memorable flavours and comforting textures; brands wouldn't get very far with the more discerning, quality-hunting pizza lovers of today.

As such, from an NPD perspective, pizza toppings, bases, crusts, sauces and formats all enjoy regular attention from culinary teams, with healthier builds, diet-specific avenues, and plant-based riffs also of key concern amid evolving consumer demand.

So what of pizza innovation interest areas for 2024? What are some of the hot spots food teams should consider when developing for the UK market next year?

Grab a slice - let's get started.

Food Trend to Food Concept

What to expect:

  • Understand the state-of-play with Asian-inspired chicken with an expert-led overview, innovator examples, and a spotlight on potential opportunity areas for the UK market.

  • Journey with us through fried/breaded chicken seasoning opportunities, exploring viable retail applications and digesting analysis.

  • Discover a brand-new retail seasoning concept as an example of our 'trend to concept' methodology, with the team discussing ingredient builds and suitability for the UK market.

  • Understand possible range expansions, backed up by AI-led product concept showcases.

Covering All Bases
Alongside its frozen pizza dough, Yough! also offers three styles of frozen pizza: Mozzarella Cheese, Uncured Turkey Pepperoni, and Naked.
With health & wellness trends continuing to diversify, food & drink brands across the board are continuing to seek out new and inventive ways to meet a broad spectrum of dietary requirements and preferences, with pizza no exception.

And with premium pizza innovations raising the bar and spoiling the consumer for choice; it's essential for food teams to focus not only on topping choices and sauces to stand out from the crowd, but also the diversity of pizza bases and crusts, innovating beyond the market-standard gluten-free message to widen the net.

Consider the moves made by innovators like Yough! (US) and it's clean label, postbiotic-rich frozen pizza dough made from Greek yoghurt. Also packed with protein and delivering just 1g total fats per 150g; Yough! is targeting consumers regularly seeking gut health support, lower calories, cleaner ingredient decks, and less fat than the standard.

Yeast allergies or intolerances might also be a consideration in terms of diet-centric pizza innovation. Last year, a team of Italian scientists showcased a yeast-free method of leavening pizza dough that relies on high-pressure gasses to create a similar rise to fermentation-led techniques.

Fly With Flatbreads
Thomas Strakers' Flat Bread launched this month with six options, with the above-right flatbread comprising tomato, stracciatella, basil and olive oil.
While obviously not pizza, it should be noted that flatbreads are having a moment.

From Lee Tiernan's decadent designs at Black Axe Mangal and Manteca's now off-menu clam flatbread option that's "flying out at lunch", to Thomas Strakers' social media showstoppers now blazing a trail in Battersea's Arcade Food Hall; London diners are fairly spoilt for choice, with innovative flatbreads blurring the many lines between starters (including bread & butter), sharers, small plates, and full-blown mains.

So what can pizza makers take from flatbread's rise to prominence these past few years?

Well, clearly, there are few restrictions when it comes to toppings in flatbread development. Size and price play big roles here, with diners more inclined for a spot of adventure with a creative flatbread, being smaller and cheaper than a whole pizza. When it comes to buying the latter, classic toppings shine through, with flatbread's allure not unlike that of artisan bakery options.

But that's not to say flatbread builds have to run wild to be a hit. Far from it.

Consider innovators such as Notting Hill's Kuro Eatery and its goat's cheese and fermented hot honey flatbread, said to be its menu bestseller. The dish is led by the fermented garlic and flower honey, which delivers a unique runny texture and a touch of tanginess, simply drizzled over a circle of goat's cheese on a grilled flatbread.

And from a cost-of-living perspective, smaller flatbread-style options with simple yet flavourful toppings can unlock affordable pricing opportunities for operators considering new ways to increase footfall.

Sound Out Sfincione
Haunt claims to be the first Manchester-based eatery to offer traditional sfincione
While there's plenty of rumblings about Detriot-style pizza being one to watch for UK development in 2024; we've been thinking about the brands and operators considering a thicker base and rectangle shape that have no alignment with the US.

If you're classic Italian-leaning, for example; how can you work with an American-style pizza base?

Well, focaccia is your friend here, as it is for makers of traditional Sicilian pizza (which, incidently, is said to have been where Detriot-style came from in the first place).

In comparison, Sicilian pizza (or Sfincione) has a light, fluffy focaccia base, with Detroit-style delivering a dense, crispy crust with caramelised edges. And while sfincione runs on mozzarella, detroit-style is brick cheese-based, with toppings vastly different between the pair.

As of today, thick and spongy sfincione has very little penetration in terms of the mainstream restaurant scene, with Manchester-based Haunt's new Sfincione evening menu one of only a handful of UK launches this year.

Haunt offers five sfincione options, including a mortadella & fior di latte (£7) and a vegan-friendly roasted artichoke & romesco (£5), with its focaccia made using regenerative flour from Wildfarmed.
UK Pizza Action Points 2023/24
  • Don't Discount Diets
    With demand for better-for-you indulgence predictably diversifying, pizza brands should consider techniques both traditional and science-led to cater to an even broader cohort of diet-driven consumers.

    Also, the likes of London's Plant Club are significantly raising the bar within the realm of vegan and gluten-free pizza. Such moves will only increase wider consumer interest in having such options going forward, particularly those more flexible with their preferences.

    Revisit your plant-based/gluten-free pizza recipes to ensure you don't drop the ball and get left behind.
  • Size Doesn't Always Matter
    Thomas Straker's flatbreads were, only last week, described by The Times as "this summer’s gourmet fast food", with smaller, pizza-esque opportunities surely to expand across the wider industry in line with increasing consumer interest.

    As such, consider smaller-sized options with creative ingredient toppings, delivering on value perceptions with appropriate pricing if/when applicable.

    Affordable flatbread bases also allow inspired home cooks to turn fridge raids into creative mealtime realities.
  • Remain Authentic
    For many, American-style pizzas have clear appeal, with authenticity increasingly coming into play as region-specific options enter the UK mainstream.

    Authenticity is, of course, also a key driver within Italian-style, with traditional Sicilian Sfincione's heritage and influence in Detroit-style pizza's creation a standout hook for consumers eager to expand their respective pizza repertoires.

    Explore lesser-known regional pizza styles for potential limited-edition launches to catch the eye.
Sign up for our
FREE food trends & insights newsletter!
Regular food trend intelligence from the experts, straight to your inbox

Meet our trend specialists and discover our unique 'Chef Nexus' & research methodology

Read our free deep-dives and sign up for our regular food trends newsletter

One F&B topic, one-page PDF format. Short, sharp food intelligence