This Expo Showcases The Future of America’s Favorite Food

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This year’s International Pizza Expo is wrapping up its three-day exhibit at the Las Vegas Convention Center this week. Those in attendance have been treated to delightful pizza samples from brands based all over North America, but in addition to classic pizza crusts, cheeses, and meats, new diet- and environment-friendly options – and packaging — have dominated the exhibit this year. Here’s a roundup of the big trends from this year’s International Pizza Expo:

1.    Vegan options aren’t just trending – they’re in high demand

As more and more millennials enter college and the workforce, more and more millennial dollars find their way into the economy. Pizza brands are thus keeping their eyes on what millennials demand most from their food, and vegan options are at the top of the list.

Present among the many companies at the International Pizza Expo this year is Daiya, which uses tapioca and potato starch to make fully vegan (and allergy-friendly) cheese that easily passes for the real thing. At the exhibit on Daiya’s behalf is central territory sales manager Chris Matthews, who told the Las Vegas Review Journal that the food service industry bought 40 percent more Daiya products last year than ever before. Included in these food service customers are pizzerias, who use Daiya in their vegan pizza options.

Interest in vegan pizza extends to toppings, too. Soy-based meat substitute brand Before the Butcher has been handing out samples such as pulled pork, chorizo, and ground Italian sausage. Its CEO, Danny O’Malley, says the company, which isn’t even two years old, is struggling to meet the demand for its products – vegan customers are that abundant.

2.    Gluten-free crusts are a force to be reckoned with

Although vegan pizza products have dominated this year’s International Pizza Expo, another alternative to a pizza staple has gotten plenty of attention too. Gluten-free crust is a major flashpoint for pizza makers, with several booths prominently featuring gluten-free options. According to Kim Desch, product developer and general manager of the showcasing brand Wild Flour Bakery, nearly one-third of people are gluten-free. Wild Flour Bakery’s pizza dough is entirely-gluten free, though many have been fooled into thinking it’s the usual crust: it has that signature crispy stretchiness that pizza lovers crave.

3.    Environmentally-friendly packaging makes up for traditional cardboard’s flaws

We’ve all tossed a pizza box next to the recycling bin after a night with friends – why would you throw cardboard in the trash? It turns out, though, that the grease that seeps from pizza into cardboard boxes makes the material totally unrecyclable. In other words, pizza delivery and packaging contribute to landfill buildup – a big no-no for the environment.

World Centric has a solution. At this year’s International Pizza Expo, the brand has been showing off its Pizza Round box, which is entirely compostable thanks to its four-to-one sugarcane-bamboo blend. According to Liz Anderson, one of World Centric’s vice presidents, the box is built with a gridded bottom that keeps pizza fresh, wicks away grease, and gets rid of the need for those pesky little white plastic “pizza tables” – this box is sturdy enough to support your pie just fine on its own.

Have you tried vegan toppings or gluten-free crust? What’s your favorite pizza? Are you into New York-style thin crust or Chicago deep dish? Let us know in the comments!

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