Pizza pricing

080228_pizza_chart.gifHere’s a facet of your life you probably don’t give much thought to – pizza prices. You call up the local pizza joint, order your $15 pizza, and soon you are eating a tasty treat made to your specifications (or at least, close to what you wanted), right? Well, cheese prices are up, and now with a rise in wheat prices, there’s a good chance that pizza you depend on (well, in my house we depend on it once every 7-10 days at a minimum) will soon go up in price, too.

Players big, small and in between in the $30 billion-plus industry are feeling the heat as they figure out how to deal with the double-barrel price spikes of the gooey and grainy commodities without sacrificing their quality, competitive edge or customer loyalty.

Now to us non-pizza-making peons, it might be hard to imagine how this could have such a big impact on pizza pricing. I mean, absolutely everything is going up in price right now, isn’t it? Massive fuel cost increases over the past half decade seem to have made everything more expensive. So how big a deal can a little bump in wheat prices be?

Spring wheat for March delivery fell $1.75 Thursday to close at $18.25 a bushel on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange. It traded as high as $25 a bushel this week. Wheat historically trades at $3 to $7 a bushel.

Holy Lolita-smacking beat-down. That’s a lotta price jumping, isn’t it? So, how to cope?

[Buddy’s Pizza VP of Operation’s Wes Pikula] said his company also is exploring other types of pizza “that aren’t so flour and cheese dependent,” such as thinner crusts that might cut the use of each in half.

. . .

Chris Sternberg, spokesman for Louisville, Ky.-based Papa John’s, said in an e-mail Thursday that the chain last fall locked in the purchase of part of the wheat supply needed for 2008. “Through this strategy, which we have continued in 2008, our restaurants are somewhat insulated from the recent run-up in the cost of wheat during the first half of the year.”

Now as a firm believer in the superiority of thick-crust over thin-crust, this price rise could seriously impact my pizza consumption choice in the future. While the wife and kids are fine choosing the thin, unimposing appearance of the 3-millimeter thick crust many pizzas seem to have these days, I prefer half-inch or even Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. And toppings? Those need to be too much for the crust to hold. If I don’t have to fight through a chunk of tasty crust and risk slopping cheesy, sauce, and meat (pizza-meat, not man-meat, BTW) on my chin, it just doesn’t seem worth my time. Hopefully, this increase won’t hit the supermarket freezer brands as much (yes, I’m a big fan of DiGiorno, Freschetta, Red Baron, and even some store-brands)

[tags]Pizza, Flour, Rising prices, Wheat, Cheese, DiGiorno, Freschette, Red Baron, Kroger’s, Schnuck’s[/tags]