All Pizza Hut Cheeses Made with Chymax™, a Microbial Rennet

In February 2010, a Vegetarian Journal reader asked us about the ingredients in The Natural™ pizza line at Pizza Hut. This line was first introduced in test markets in 2008 and then 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 was no longer available on its website. The last information we received from Pizza Hut was in May 2007, when a Quality Assurance Specialist at Pizza Hut Headquarters in Dallas told us 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, a representative told us that animal rennet was used to make the cheese.

The VRG found this information dubious, considering what Pizza Hut told us in 2007. Furthermore, in 2008, several major enzyme manufacturers told us that microbial rennet accounted for 80-95 percent of all enzymes used in making cheese in the United States. Thus, we continued to research the question.

In May 2010, The VRG received confirmation through a source 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 the 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. He approached many companies along the supply chain, starting with the six from which Pizza Hut purchases its cheeses, until he finally reached the cheesemaker itself. He told The VRG that both corporate-owned 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 who 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. In addition, the company sells 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 (known as 'fairy dust') that is automatically sprinkled on all pizzas in Pizza Hut kitchens. Customers may request that it be left off.