From the iron age to the space age: why pizza innovation never stops

Archaeologists recently made a fascinating discovery in the ruins of Pompeii: A 2,000 year-old Roman fresco depicting what looks suspiciously like…a pizza!

Granted, it would not have been quite what pizza-lovers are used to these days; tomatoes didn’t arrive in Europe from the Americas until the 15 th century and mozzarella didn’t exist back then either. But the mural shows an unmistakeably round, flat bread covered in various vegetables– served alongside some fruits, including what appears to be a pineapple.

Could it be that the ancient Pompeiians were enjoying a de-constructed Hawaiian-style pizza while other Europeans were still happy munching on meat, nuts and seeds? This fascinating discovery got us thinking at dsm-firmenich about the ‘evolution’ of the pizza.

Today it’s one of the world’s most loved and ubiquitous meals. It can be grandly served at the table with wine – Pompeii-style; it can be eaten as a fast food treat; as an on-the-go snack; or indeed, made and consumed at home (not least back in COVID lockdown days when home baking provided great comfort for people).

Did you know that in Italy, the suspected birthplace of this delicious treat, “pizza” is searched more than 10 million times per month on Google?1 But one thing that unites all modern-day pizza lovers is high expectations of what they want from this food. We all know what we want from this food. Think of indulgent stingy and gooey cheese, delicious toppings, a thick and soft crust or a deliciously thin, crispy crust that delivers a satisfying crunch as you bite into it – along with a soft, chewy center that is cooked all the way through.

Getting it right, every time

For restaurants with dedicated pizza chefs - or for consumers making their own artisan pizzas at home - this is fairly achievable. But for food companies, striving to hit these standards consistently for both chilled and frozen pizzas in the industrial age – at scale – and in a (cost) efficient way; well it’s not an easy job.

At dsm-firmenich, we’ve witnessed this challenge first-hand over many years – not least because baking solutions are a cornerstone of our ingredient business. The question is how could we combine all this knowledge and accrued expertise to help manufacturers solve their challenges?

Our solution: the Pizza Toolkit. A collection of baking ingredient solutions that help bring restaurant-standard pizza to supermarket shelves.

Restaurant-quality pizza? We deliver!

The crust is literally the foundation of success for any pizza. Here, our Toolkit helps manufacturers create this using another ancient culinary process: the fermentation of enzymes, now achieved with the latest modern biotechnology.

Our baking enzymes are proven to improve pizza dough in various ways. For example, they help create a create pizza base with great texture - that is crispy on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside. Furthermore, they can improve not only the shape of the dough (nice and round); but also the volume of the crust by optimizing the water distribution throughout the dough – with less ‘shrink-back’ after the pizza is baked. They even help create an appetizingly golden color.

This word ‘optimization’ is important here, because this is what the baking process is all about: getting the utmost from your raw ingredients and process – so that consumers get the best possible bang for their pizza buck.

Life’s too short for bad pizza

Given today’s trends towards more wholesome foods with less artificial ingredients, another major challenge facing pizza manufacturers is how to achieve all the above in a healthier way. The good news here is that because our baking enzymes considered as natural processing aids, they don’t need to appear on the product ingredient list – unlike the commonly used synthetic emulsifiers used. Furthermore, our baking enzymes are dosed at lower levels than these traditional, chemical-based baking ingredients; and have a far lower carbon footprint in production.

Of course, it’s not all about enzymes. The other essential component of a modern pizza is…the cheese – and especially mozzarella. Here, manufacturers use our range of cultures and coagulants to create the perfect pizza topping that can be easily shredded; has a flexible yet firm texture throughout its shelf life; and performs well when baked.

Back in the days of Pompeii, the average toolkit would have looked very different to our own Pizza Toolkit. But the principle would have been very similar: using a set of specialist ‘instruments’ (backed by great skill & expertise) to build something special.

Afterall, life is simply too short to eat bad pizza.

1 Dsm-firmenich Study on Health & Nutrition in Baking, 2023

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Published on

08 August 2023


  • Bakery