by Rachel Walker
Ten years ago, most Brit's idea of a burger was a 'meat pattie.' Nothing remarkable. Just one decade on, and the burger market is almost unrecognisable: ground steak, organic meat, brioche buns and specialty burgers from buffalo to ostrich and venison meat. It shows the capacity for change, and how consumer demand can revolutionise a market.
Just a few years ago, people might have thought that the pizza market was saturated. There was already a differentiation between thin-crust and deep-pan. There were endless pizza delivery options, several successful high street chains, and supermarket ranges which spanned from own-brand 'essential' pizza to 'gourmet' Pizza Express-branded options.
Then the rumblings of a pizza revolution began. It closely mirrored the trends seen in the burger market. The gourmetisation started with small independent companies. There was Pizza Pilgrims – a team of two brothers who began their journey by travelling round Italy to learn the art of a perfect Neapolitan, and also Fundi –again, run by brothers – who built their wood fire oven from scratch.
The company who has best ridden the crest of the progressive pizza wave is Franco Manca – who quickly grew to ten London branches between 2008-2015, and recently sold for £27.5 million. Part of the cult-appeal is Franco Manca's slow-rising sourdough base. It loosely slots into a broader trend of a diversified pizza bases which has also seen the popularisation of gluten-free flatbreads, and even options like cauliflower and quinoa crusts.
Another big part of Franco Manca's success is down to their ovens: "wood burning 'tuf ae' brick ovens made onsite by specialised artisans from Naples." When Franco Manca first launched, the dappled-black way that they cooked their pizza bases didn't instantly attract queues round the corner. Co-founder, Guiseppe Mascoli, explained that it wasn't until top London critic, Marina O'Loughlin wrote in a review saying that Franco Manca was making pizza "the way that it should be made," that people started to embrace the artfully charred base.
Now that Brits have got a taste for the authentic char, the movement has gathered even more momentum. Forget tucking-away ovens in the kitchen, restaurants like Lardo in Hackney are making the ovens their centrepiece. It's a sign that the restaurant is embracing authentic Italian cooking methods, and making a pizza according to tradition.
Home pizza ovens are also seeing a surge in popularity. Traditionally, a pizza oven required large outside space, and cost upwards of one thousand pounds. But increased interest often results in innovation – in the case of pizza ovens, a company called Uuni has created a small and affordable option. As with burgers, the revolution which started with a handful of small independent restaurants has changed a market for good. No longer does a 'pizza night' involve lifting a flabby white slice out of a soggy box, but the surge of home pizza ovens and taste for an authentic option has turned the event into something quite different.
Photo Credits: http://www.francomanca.co.uk/