While millennials are known to be one of the driving forces behind the shift toward cleaner ingredients in processed foods and more organic and natural food options, they’re also growing another key food segment: Pizza.
While Americans’ love for pizza is nothing new, we consume 350 slices per second, reports CNBC, millennial interest in pizza is driving the category growth to new heights. And just like their influence on the rest of the food industry, this one is poised to change the pizza industry for the better, too.
Pizza sales are expected to hit as high as $45 billion this year, up from $38.5 billion in 2015.
And, says, CNBC, it’s not just late-night munching by guys playing video games—millennial women are driving the pizza boom by more than half, “as much as 63 percent” cites CNBC.
“This younger generation not only look for healthier options but also consider the experience as significant as the food itself — an important consideration for entrepreneurs looking to cash in on the evolving pizza market, as today’s 80 million millennials buying pizza are expected to outspend baby boomers by 2017.”
That’s a lot of pizza.
“The past few years have seen an enormous number of pizza establishments emerge to cater to the evolving marketplace, from gluten-free specialties and artisanal parlors with healthy options to the environmentally conscious and mobile pizzerias,” CNBC explains.
And while gourmet pizzerias and restaurants continue trending, especially as millennials push for healthier food options, the majority of pizza sales are still going to the nation’s top franchise chains, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Papa John’s, and Little Caesars, which combined brought in more than $23 billion in 2015. And while the chains have made some recent shifts toward healthier ingredients, they’re still highly processed and far-removed from the handmade neighborhood pizzas that often feature made-from-scratch ingredients.
But it’s the in-between point–the rise of the fast-casual pizza model that’s poised to take a larger share of millennial pizza dollars in the coming years. Chains that model themselves after Chipotle-style service (Chipotle even launched its own pizza chain recently) with a focus on cleaner ingredients and fewer menu items, may not be in your neighborhood yet, but they’ll be there soon.
“[T]he fast-casual segment continued to lead the pack in 2015 with 11.4 percent sales growth,” reports CNBC, noting that’s almost doubling the growth rate “of any other dining segment.”
But this surge in pizza chains shouldn’t spell doom for your favorite local pizzerias–not anytime soon, anyway. At 350 slices per second, America can’t afford to lose any pie makers.