• Rebecca Kroupa of Sarpino’s USA got the idea for a vegan pizza menu after a customer in a Florida store asked for a cheeseless pizza.
  • Kroupa notes that “the varieties and quality [of vegan cheeses and plant-based proteins] have really improved over the last few years.”

This article also appears on PMQ’s sister site, pizzavegan.com. Click here to read the original article.

 By Tracy Morin

Partnering with well-known vegan-friendly brands, Sarpino’s Pizzeria offers an entire vegan menu at its 45 franchise locations sprinkled throughout Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri and Texas. The chain taps Beyond Meat for an alternative protein option (plant-based Italian sausage) and Daiya Cutting Board Collection Mozzarella cheese to create the full pizzeria experience, vegan-style.

The vegan menu introduced a range of specialty pizzas, but Sarpino’s customers can also design their own pies with the create-your-own option or choose from calzones, salads, sandwiches and pastas. “Definitely our signature specialty Vegan Italiano Pizza is our best seller!” says Rebecca Kroupa, director of R&D for Sarpino’s USA, headquartered in Lincolnshire, Illinois. “Our vegan calzones and vegan cheesy breads are also very popular.”

Original Inspiration
What inspires a chain with locations in so many different markets to cater to vegan diets? For Kroupa, it was a personal interaction that piqued her interest. “I was working at one of our Florida locations, and a customer came in asking for a cheeseless pizza,” she recalls. “We made one with just sauce and some spinach. While the customer was happy, I was not—I thought, ‘We can do better.’ That started the research into the vegan and flexitarian food trends and how fast that market was growing.”

After that, Kroupa recalls, the Sarpino’s team did more investigating, exploring the growing number of vegan cheeses and plant-based proteins that are now available. “The varieties and quality have really improved over the last few years,” she enthuses. “We also did some focus group tastings with vegan and dairy-free customers. We created a vegan menu that complemented our current menu, with the idea in mind that the vegan recipes were great, not just ‘great for being vegan.’”

Sarpino’s vegan menu also includes calzones, pastas and sandwiches.

Plans for Expansion
Sarpino’s launched this new menu in May 2020, featuring 13 specialty pizzas and three calzones, plus Garlic Bread, Cheesy Bread, pastas and sandwiches—all 100% vegan. And customers have embraced these additions. “We’ve been promoting our menu across a variety of digital channels, using our unique method, techniques and experience to connect with the vegan community,” Kroupa explains. “The customer reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, and it has turned into a very loyal fan base.”

For other pizzerias looking to connect with this demographic, Kroupa advises: “Listen to what the vegan community is asking for! And, as always, thoroughly train your staff on the new items.” With trust a key requirement among this audience, it’s important to ensure staff members are able to communicate with them and prepare items according to their dietary needs.

Finally, the Sarpino’s brand has big plans for the future of its vegan menu. “We are going to be adding more plant-based proteins options, vegan desserts and appetizers in the next few months,” Kroupa notes. “We also added two vegan limited-time-only (LTO) pizzas this year to complement our regular menu LTOs. We have only a handful of locations left that don’t offer the vegan menu, and our goal is to have all stores on board by the end of the year.”

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