Papa John’s Testing Organic Ingredients at 35 Stores in Lexington, Kentucky
The pizza giant hopes to expand its network of certified organic farmers for an eventual nationwide rollout.
Papa John’s wants to have “the cleanest label in the pizza industry.”
Papa John’s continues to lead the major pizza chains in a move toward cleaner, organic ingredients, as it announced recently it’s testing several key organic ingredients in a pilot program at stores in the Lexington, Kentucky, area.
According to the Courier Journal, Papa John’s is testing four organic vegetable ingredients—Roma tomatoes, green peppers, yellow onions and mushrooms—at 35 locations in Lexington. The company partnered with Green BEAN Delivery to source the ingredients from certified organic farms in seven states, including Kentucky and next-door neighbor Indiana. Organic sourcing is “more than a trend,” Sean Muldoon, Papa John’s chief ingredient officer, told the newspaper. “It’s something that will continue to grow. We wanted to put a foot in the water by testing in Lexington.”
As Papa John’s expands its network of certified organic farmers, the goal is to eventually roll the program out nationwide. “Our customers want to know where their food comes from and how it is produced,” Muldoon said in a prepared statement. “At Papa John’s, we are constantly looking at ways to meet the needs of our customers, whether it’s through our clean-label initiative or testing organic produce. Moving into a test of organic produce is a natural progression as Papa John’s takes pride in our position of having the cleanest label in the pizza industry.”
The company has already taken an industry-leading role in getting rid of ingredients like MSG, high fructose corn syrup, cellulose and partially hydrogenated oils and the preservatives BHA and BHT. It also uses chicken raised on a vegetarian diet and without human or animal antibiotics and cage-free eggs.
Many independent restaurants have already begun to move toward more organic offerings, but the move by Papa John’s signals faster movement in that direction. Independent pizzerias will likely have little choice but to follow, even though organic ingredients are more expensive. Non-pizza chains are already making the move, as McDonald’s removed artificial ingredients from its chicken and Chipotle Mexican Grill has started weeding out additives as well.
In late 2016, a poll by the Pew Research Center found that 55% believe organically grown fruits and vegetables are healthier. Another survey found 65% will pay 10% more to dine at a restaurant that serves organic and locally grown food. Nearly 13% of all produce sold in the U.S. is now organic, according to the Organic Trade Association, and that number could approach 20% by 2020. More than half of American households purchase organic produce, and numerous surveys have shown that many customers actively seek out restaurants that offer locally grown and/or organic foods.