Now that it’s en vogue to have organic food on the menu, many fast dining restaurants are jumping on board for what they likely think of as a “fad.” Thanks to consumers voting with their wallets and their ever-evolving palates, chain after chain are stepping up and taking unnecessary additives and hormones out of the food they serve. And pizza chain Papa John’s has become the latest.
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At select U.S. locations, the pizza shop has launched two pilot programs that are incorporating organic produce and gluten-free crusts onto the menu. The organic program will feature four veggies: Roma tomatoes, green peppers, yellow onions, and mushrooms, and only be available in the Lexington, Ky. market. While their gluten-free crust will be available in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Nashville, and St. Louis.
Chief ingredients officer Sean Muldoon reportedly said, “We just think this is a trend that is going to be out there, and we want to be the first in our industry to have organic produce on our menu.” (The company is also partnering with online organic delivery provider Green BEAN Delivery to source the produce it will use, from family farms across several states. Now that I can get on board with!)
Both test programs are aimed at “trends” consumers say they care about today; about half of all U.S. households buy organic produce. While higher-quality ingredients come at a cost, Papa John’s has committed to spending $100 million annually to ensure it is using fresher ingredients. (Past commitments have been using only cage-free eggs, chickens raised without antibiotics, and removing 14 “unwanted ingredients.”)
Thus far, the organic produce initiative is further along in the testing process than the gluten-free crust. And, consumers with Celiac Disease should know that although Papa John’s has procedures in place to prevent contact with gluten, they are not ready to recommend the gluten-free crust to those customers, because the potential for contamination still exists.
As I always say, it’s a small win, but a win nonetheless and we’ll take it.