A partnership with Yum! Brands has proved to be beneficial, according to a progress update from Dairy Management Inc., which is funded by the dairy checkoff to support U.S. dairy products and dairy farmers. Announced in 2016, the partnership was formed to grow U.S. dairy sales internationally, specifically in the Asia Pacific as well as Latin America and the Caribbean.
Yum! Brands is the parent company of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, with nearly 43,000 restaurants in 135 countries and territories, but the partnership specifically focused on the KFC and Pizza Hut brands.
DMI announced this week that Pizza Hut has increased the amount of cheese on its pan pizzas by 25% due to the partnership -- an increase that requires an additional 150 million lb. of milk annually to meet the change.
The project was made possible thanks to dairy scientist Nitin Joshi, a DMI employee who works on site at Pizza Hut’s headquarters in Plano, Texas. Pan pizza is the chain’s signature product offering, and the new formulations are now available at more than 6,000 of its restaurants nationwide.
“Pizza Hut is known for its crave-able, iconic pizzas, and its leadership believes that more cheese in more places is a way to make their pizzas even more delicious,” Joshi said. “This obviously is great news for our dairy farmers as more Pizza Hut consumers will get to enjoy more of the wholesome products that are made possible because of the hard work our farmers do each day on their farms.”
Joshi said the project began in 2016 but needed to clear several hurdles throughout 2017 before it became a reality. DMI first shared research and insights to help convince Pizza Hut that consumers want more cheese on pizza. This led to a discussion of how much cheese to add to the chain’s existing pan pizza recipe that would make a noticeable difference with consumers.
Then, there was the challenge of assuring that the pizza would be cooked consistently across the country. Joshi said several different types of ovens are used in Pizza Hut restaurants nationwide, so it was critical to create a pizza that would have uniform melt, stretch and color qualities. Joshi said the Pizza Hut team prepared about 8,500 pizzas before settling on a finished product. The team then conducted training sessions with franchise operators across the country.
“This is another great example of the power of a partner working with our checkoff team to give consumers a product they truly desire,” said Marilyn Hershey, Pennsylvania dairy farmer and chairman of DMI, which manages the national dairy checkoff. “It’s also a win for farmers as we continue to explore new and innovative avenues for our milk production through our partnerships.”