by Jeanne Yacoubou, MS
VRG Research Director
In February 2010, a reader asked us about the ingredients contained in The Natural™ pizza line at Pizza Hut. This line was first introduced in 2008 in test markets and then became nationwide in 2009. A purchasing manager at Pizza Hut told us that The Natural™ pizza line was discontinued from the national menu although it may still be available at certain Pizza Hut restaurants. Those that may carry it are franchises, not corporate-owned restaurants.
While inquiring into The Natural™ pizza line, we asked customer service representatives for an update on ingredient sources, especially since the Pizza Hut Ingredient Statement is no longer available on its website. The last information we received from Pizza Hut was in May 2007, when we were told by a Quality Assurance Specialist at the Dallas Pizza Hut headquarters that Pizza Hut cheeses were made with a non-animal enzyme.
We spoke with several people on the toll-free consumer line throughout February 2010 and received contradictory information. One time in mid-February, a representative told us that animal rennet was used to make the cheese.
The VRG found this information dubious considering what we were told in 2007 by Pizza Hut. Furthermore, we were told by several major enzyme manufacturers in 2008 that microbial rennet accounted for 80-95% of all enzymes used in cheese making in the United States. Thus we continued to research the question.
In May 2010, The VRG received confirmation through a source in management at the Pizza Hut corporate level, who had in turn been told in writing by the only supplier of all six varieties of its cheeses, that the enzyme used to make its cheese was microbial. Chymax™ is the brand name of the microbial fermentation product used to curdle the milk during cheese production. Our contact told us that his search lasted three months and led him to contact many companies along the supply chain, starting with the six from which Pizza Hut purchases its six cheese types, until he finally got to the cheese maker itself. He told The VRG that both corporate and franchised Pizza Hut restaurants must use companies chosen from an approved list of suppliers.
To cross-confirm what our Pizza Hut contact told us, The VRG contacted the senior product development specialist that sent the letter to our Pizza Hut contact. She confirmed that only Chymax™ is used to make its cheeses. She also stated that her company provides cheese to "the big three" quick-service chains in the United States as well as many other major restaurant chains. The company also sells its cheese to many major food service providers and food distributors, some of whom re-label the cheese using their own name.
Note: There is a specially-blended mix of Parmesan cheese and spices automatically sprinkled on all pizzas in Pizza Hut kitchens. Customers may request that it (known as "fairy dust" by staff) be left off.