Pizza Hut has been trying to recharge its business in the US for quite a while. The Yum! Brands chain has seen eight straight quarters of declining domestic sales; meanwhile, its smaller competitors, Papa John’s and Domino’s, have been munching on wider and wider slices of the market.
Now Pizza Hut is staking its comeback, at least in part, on the gluten-free diet trend. The chain has partnered with Udi’s Gluten Free, the world’s largest producer of gluten-free foods, and a nonprofit called the Gluten Intolerance Group, to make the pizzas.
It isn’t the only major pizza chain in America with a gluten-free pizza option—Domino’s put gluten-free crusts on its menu two years ago—but whereas Domino’s couldn’t promise that pizzas made with those crusts would be safe from cross-contamination, Pizza Hut said it’s keeping the ingredients for its gluten-free pizzas totally separate from all others in each restaurant where the pizzas are offered.
Special kits containing Udi’s crusts, cheese, marinara sauce, and pepperoni will be kept together, and each gluten-free pie will be baked on parchment paper, cut with a designated pizza cutter, and delivered in an Udi’s-labeled pizza box. Employees handling gluten-free pizzas must wear gloves and follow other guidelines as advised by the Gluten Intolerance Group.
The gluten-free pies, 10 inches in diameter and cut into six slices, will cost $9.99. Each slice is roughly 150 calories. Weighing in at 55 grams a slice, this is the lightest pizza on the menu.
Truly gluten-free pizzas will only be available with cheese and pepperoni toppings—other add-ons aren’t guaranteed to be gluten-free—but anyone can request another kind of pizza made with a gluten-free crust, the company said.
The world’s largest pizza chain has already tried several tricks to bring customers back: selling pizza by the slice, giant cookies cut like pizzas, buffalo chicken wings, among other menu and marketing revamps.
Given that consumer interest in gluten-free products has spiked, with nearly 30% of Americans expressing an interest in reducing their gluten intake, this may be the menu addition that makes Pizza Hut competitive again.