Nearly a year ago, I received a phone call in my office from Sean Muldoon, chief ingredient officer for Papa John’s Pizza. Sean explained to me that Papa John’s was interested in sourcing organic vegetables for its world-famous pizza.
The conversation continued and evolved through several meetings between my team, the Papa John’s staff, and even “Papa John” himself (John Schnatter, the founder, chairman and CEO of Papa John’s Pizza).
Through the partnership, Papa John’s is launching a pilot program for its Lexington, Kentucky, market, using organic vegetables sourced from Green Bean Delivery for pizza toppings. Those organic vegetables include Roma tomatoes, green peppers, yellow onions and mushrooms. While most people might think the slogan—“Better ingredients. Better pizza.”—is no more than marketing fluff, Papa John’s stands true to its promise and continues on its quest for a clean label.
I could see Papa John’s commitment toward this goal the second I entered its corporate research and development center.
The pizza family’s test kitchen demonstrates a timeline of events for how its “better ingredients” have evolved over the years to now include antibiotic-free chicken for pizza toppings and poppers, cage-free eggs and menu ingredients without MSG, high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors and synthetic colors.
This is a bold and significant move, as food-service businesses have largely ignored the organic and all-natural marketplace, despite the industry’s continued growth and demand from consumers. Many buyers are tricked into thinking convenient food can’t possibly be grown using sustainable methods, and furthermore, that the sustainable-food industry can’t support the weight of everyday American diets.
However, leaders in the food-service industry, such as Papa John’s, are starting to change the trend of conventional convenience, and their competition is paying attention. This same phenomenon has been present in grocery stores for nearly two decades, and it has proven there is real opportunity in tried-and-true growth in healthy, all-natural and organic food.
The world’s largest food companies have been forced to reinvent the very brands and product ingredients that drove their profitability for decades because of consumer demand for cleaner foods. Grocery stores have also changed. They are now stocking their shelves with all-natural and organic products. This natural progression is starting to take place in the food-service industry, and it’s only going to continue to grow.
For all of you who have worked so hard to create this positive change in our food system, I commend you. Farmers, farm-to-table chefs and food entrepreneurs have created brands of integrity that have helped cultivate change and put hope back into our food system.
The organic and all-natural food industry has grown year after year and is showing no signs of slowing down. One thing is certain: The consumer will create the demand, and the farmers and food companies will fill the supply. Choose wisely, even when eating conveniently. Your food dollar matters.•
Ewer is CEO of Green Bean Delivery.