Mike Bausch, owner and operator of Andolini’s Pizzeria—which has eight locations in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area—had been wanting to add a plant-based pizza to his menu for several years. With the surging momentum of plant-based proteins in general, Bausch saw it as a trend ready to explode in the world of pizza as well.
The problem for Bausch was that he had trouble finding a plant-based pizza topping that he felt delivered on taste, texture, and consistency. Bausch finally found it when Hormel Foods launched the HAPPY LITTLE PLANTS® Brand, specializing in pizza toppings for plant lovers. Bausch felt the taste and consistency of the brand’s toppings were far superior to any competitor’s, saying he was “blown away” by how good it tasted the first time he sampled it. He also liked that there were four different varieties to choose from: Pepperoni-Style, Italian-Style Crumble, Chorizo-Style Crumble and Plant-Based Meatball.
Thanks to the HAPPY LITTLE PLANTS® Brand, Andolini’s recently launched its first plant-based pizza: Power Plant Pepperoni, featuring vegan cheese, San Marzano tomato sauce and the HAPPY LITTLE PLANTS® Pepperoni-Style topping.
“I’m genuinely excited about this,” Bausch says. “We’ve been looking for a plant-based product worthy of being on our menu for a long time. This is what we’ve been waiting for—it’s so good. The chew and the taste really lands.”
The rest of this slideshow will look at all the reasons why operators like Bausch are so high on the HAPPY LITTLE PLANTS® Brand—and why the excitement goes beyond plant-based pizza.
When the HAPPY LITTLE PLANTS® Brand was launched, the intention was that each plant-based topping it created would not only be perfect on top of pizzas, but they would also work on top of other menu items that are popular in the pizza space, from calzones, to sandwiches, to pasta dishes and salads.
It appears this was achieved: Bausch says his mind is already racing with all of the possibilities that could be created with the products.
“Take the Pepperoni-Style product alone,” Bausch says. “You can use it on slices and a pie and call it a win. It means you’re already offering people something with a plant-based option that they didn’t have before, so it endears you to them. But you could theoretically put that same plant-based pepperoni in a calzone, on a sandwich—really any place you would use pepperoni, and that’s true of all of these toppings. People are going to gravitate toward those items because they’ve been waiting a long time for them.”
The plant-based toppings are versatile beyond just the world of pizza, too, with potential that includes breakfast bowls, tacos, lasagna—each topping creates its own wide-open world of possibilities.
Nicole Bean, president of Pizaro’s Pizza, a multi-unit brand in the Houston area, says her company is testing the HAPPY LITTLE PLANTS® Italian-Style Crumble and Pepperoni-Style products as a substitute on their signature Salsiccia e Funghi pie, but that her brand is open to trying the products out across the menu.
“The biggest thing I would tell chefs is that you have to be open to trying to menu a plant-based item like HAPPY LITTLE PLANTS® Toppings,” Bean says. “Be open to trying something new and different because if you don’t, your customers who are looking for that will go somewhere else.”
The HAPPY LITTLE PLANTS® Brand is a testament to how far the science behind plant-based proteins have come. Consider that Bausch’s journey to find a great plant-based topping spanned at least four years of looking for something that delivered on both flavor and texture and did not end until he found HAPPY LITTLE PLANTS® Toppings.
Bean felt the same way—she was looking for the right product and felt like it finally fell into her lap when she tried the brand.
“I compare plant-based to the gluten-free movement,” Bean says. “It took a while for people to perfect the flavor profiles and consistency of gluten-free foods, and I think that was true of plant-based foods, too. We’ve kind of been waiting on something that tasted great, had a nice consistency and everything. When Hormel Foods launched the HAPPY LITTLE PLANTS® Brand I knew it would be quality and I was truly blown away by the flavor profile of the Chorizo-Style Crumble and the Pepperoni-Style.”
One of the reasons Bausch says he trusts the HAPPY LITTLE PLANTS® Brand is because of its parent-company’s approach to the foodservice industry. Both he and Bean mention that they like the fact that Hormel Foods, and its foodservice division, is a time-tested company that launched something new, exciting and progressive based on insights from what chefs and diners were looking for.
“Hormel Foods is a large company that’s still really hungry in its approach to the industry and not every brand is like that,” Bausch says. “I feel like this HAPPY LITTLE PLANTS® Line is an example of that. Whenever I’ve partnered with them it’s, ‘Hey, let’s do this, let’s make cool stuff.’ They want to talk to the heavy hitters in the industry and listen and make products that are actually useful to chefs and people will love—they take the smartest approach you can imagine.”
For more on adding plant-based pizza toppings to your menu, visit the HAPPY LITTLE PLANTS® Brand website.