What Tops America's Favorite Pizzas?

Restaurant pizza preferences differ demographically, regionally

Meat Pizza (CSP Daily News / Convenience Stores / Foodservice)

CHICAGO -- American consumers' restaurant pizza preferences differ depending on their age, gender and where they live, according to a new study by Culinary Visions Panel. It presented 500 consumers with several pizza concepts and asked how likely they would be to order them at their favorite restaurant.

The concepts included:

  • Meat Lovers: Italian sausage, pepperoni, ham and asiago
  • Four-Cheese: Gorgonzola, goat cheese, mozzarella and parmesan
  • Garden Pizza: Whole wheat crust, spinach, roma tomatoes and red peppers
  • Dessert Pizza: Chocolate hazelnut spread and fresh berries
  • Breakfast Pizza: Scrambled eggs, cheddar and sausage
  • Salad Pizza: Romaine lettuce, parmesan and creamy Caesar dressing

Although 76% of the consumers surveyed prefer Meat Lovers Pizza and 71% favor Four-Cheese Pizza, men are more likely to order meat toppings, while women favor pizza with various cheese toppings.

Men list their favorite pizza types as Meat Lovers, Breakfast, Salad and Four-Cheese Pizzas, while women are more likely to choose Garden and Dessert Pizzas.

Mozzarella, pepperoni and mushrooms are the top three favorite toppings across the board, but when it comes to meat, consumers list pepperoni, Italian sausage and bacon as their top three.

Consumers across all age groups selected mozzarella and Parmesan as their favorite cheeses, with cheddar coming in third in all regions except the Northeast, which prefer Asiago.

"Pizza is indeed America's comfort food, and it is no surprise that meat and cheese toppings scored high with those we surveyed," said Sharon Olson, executive director of Culinary Visions Panels, Chicago. "It was also interesting to see that 63% of consumers surveyed were likely to order the healthful garden pizza, and 50% indicated they were likely to order a breakfast pizza."

The survey revealed that pizza offering preferences are consistent across the country, with the exception of the West. While those who live in the Midwest, South and Northeast list their first pizza preference as Meat Lovers, followed by Four-Cheese and Garden Pizzas, consumers in the West are more likely to order Four-Cheese and Garden Pizza before Meat Lovers.

Vegetable pizza topping preferences also vary by region. Onion, green pepper and mushroom are Midwestern favorites; mushroom, olives and onion are preferred by those in the West; Northeast consumers favor mushroom, onion and tomato; and consumers in the South would order mushroom, tomato and onion as their vegetable toppings of choice.

Age also is a factor in vegetable pizza topping preferences, with 18- to 34-year-olds preferring green pepper, onion and mushroom. By comparison, those ages 35 to 54 favor mushroom, onion and olives, while mushroom, onion and tomato are favorites of those 55 years and older.

More than any other age group, consumers 18 to 34 years are the largest demographic who would definitely or probably order Four-Cheese, Garden, Dessert and Breakfast Pizza.

Compared with other races, Native Americans and Alaskan Americans are most likely to order Dessert Pizza and forego Salad Pizza.

Culinary Visions Panel surveyed 500 consumers about a variety of pizza offerings and their favorite pizza topping. It released the study, America's Favorite Pizzas, in May 2014. Topics included preferences related to various pizza concepts, topping preferences and food or beverage items consumers like to pair with pizza.

The Culinary Visions Panel is a research and trend forecasting firm that explores a wide range of culinary topics with food industry professionals and consumers.