17th February 2022
Everyone knows cheese tastes great, it’s extremely versatile and everyone has their favourite. However, when it comes to pizza cheese, functionality is just as important as flavour.
The choices are varied and just as you would decide on a suitable mix of cheese for a cheese board, you also need to consider a range of factors when deciding what to top your pizza with!
Mozzarella is the original pizza cheese. It’s a delicious cow’s milk cheese, known by pizza lovers throughout the world for its melted, stringy characteristics and strong connection to Italy. However, due to many changing factors in recent years the top of our pizza is evolving.
The ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has seen the industry baseline find a new normal. We have found a merging of the channel landscapes and reduced confidence in out of home dining, yet consumers still want to treat themselves to comforting and indulgent food. As such, the popularity of delivery and takeaway routes to market, including the likes of Deliveroo and Just Eat, is in growth and frequently engaged with by consumers.
Additionally, we have seen the cheese and dairy market escalate to some of the highest prices in the last 30 years. With a short supply of milk and increased demand from the consumer, we are in unprecedented times. Low milk yields and inflation on electricity, fuel and packaging means that the requirement for more cost-effective and functional cheeses has become increasingly prevalent.
Add in the importance for a delivered pizza to be at its best when it arrives and the growing requests for specific dietary requirements, you can begin to see the challenges faced in the industry. Therefore, pizza topping varieties have seen an increase in focus and improvement, and there are now some amazing products on the market to meet the evolving needs.
Products within the pizza cheese category can vary significantly. From products manufactured for functionality, for value or to meet specific dietary needs, through to ingredients centred on provenance from continental Europe. The positioning of your product on the menu is your choice, but are you using the correct mix of ingredients to achieve your ideal commercial and quality requirements? Functionality, meltability, type of oven, fresh or frozen, suitability for restricted diets, and even the price point target all affect cheese choice. Therefore it is vitally important to select the right cheese for the right application.
And that’s why there are several additional pizza topping products on the market, other than Mozzarella?
Below we take a look at Mozzarella, pizza cheese and analogues to explain the difference between them and their ideal use across the industry.
Grated Mozzarella has always been the mainstay of the pizza industry and what we would all expect to see on the top of our favourite pizza in the UK. Mozzarella has a mild and milky taste profile that is universally liked. You may also find standard Mozzarella/Cheddar grated blends where the flavour of the Cheddar adds an additional dimension to your pizza, satisfying consumer taste buds.
Ingredients: Cow’s milk, rennet and salt.
Performance: Melty, stringy texture, that browns easily. Mozzarella creates the desired cheese pull and ensures good coverage when melted.
Main usage: Classic applications, supermarket own label, chain restaurants and casual dining. Suitable for vegetarians.
Italian Mozzarella is a much softer cheese than the grated variety (discussed above), more commonly seen in a smaller pearl or ball format. 5-gram pearls tend to be used as an industry standard and will be seen on retailers’ pizzas as well as in the restaurant side of the industry. Italian Mozzarella gives a very traditional look, taste and feel to the product.
Ingredients: Milk (Cow or Buffalo), rennet and salt
Performance: Melty, creamy, elevating the finish.
Main usage: Adding provenance to your menu. It is predominantly suitable for vegetarians, however specifications on individual products should be checked.
This is a functional cheese blend which has been developed specifically for use as a pizza topping. This product is still classed as a cheese and will cook just like Mozzarella. This product tends to be more cost effective than traditional Mozzarella options. It is fantastic for the delivery market as it will still stretch as it cools. Pizza cheese has a higher melt point than Mozzarella and therefore tends to burn less if cooked quickly. Pizza cheese can also be blended with Mozzarella depending on your requirements.
Ingredients: Cheese curd (or milk powder), rennet casein, butter (or oil), water and starch.
Performance: High melt, stringy texture, but still stretches as it cools.
Main Usage: Pizza restaurant & takeaway market. Suitable for vegetarians.
An analogue cannot be called ‘cheese’. Analogue functions very much the same as Mozzarella and can be blended with all of the above different pizza toppings depending on your cost engineering requirements.
Ingredients: Rennet casein, starch, palm oil, water.
Performance: Melty, stringy texture, browns easily, very cost-effective.
Main Usage: Pizza restaurant & takeaway market. Suitable for Vegetarians.
With the increase demand for an alternative to cheese we have seen improvements in vegan pizza toppings. Developments on flavour and stretch have been challenging, however the products are still improving at an amazing rate due to the consumer importance. Vegan products can not be called ‘Cheese’.
Ingredients: Coconut oil (fermented rice options are also available), starch, vegetable protein, water.
Performance: Cooks and lightly melts.
Main Usage: To satisfy the consumer demand for vegan and free-from products. Suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
As you can see there are many things to consider when creating the perfect pizza! What will really determine your selection will be the application and what you are trying to achieve.