Pepperoni topping gets scarce amid production snags, high demand

Pizza restaurants have shown resiliency through the pandemic as homebound consumers turned to the original delivery staple for comfort food
America’s most beloved pizza topping is getting ever-more expensive to obtain amid production snags at meat plants and high demand for pizza.

Small pizza shops across the US are reporting higher prices and tight supply for their usual pepperoni orders. At Charlie’s Pizza House in Yankton, South Dakota, manager Nick Johnson has seen prices steadily increase from $2.87 a pound in January 2019 to $4.12 now. At New York City’s Emily, chef and co-owner Matthew Hyland is paying $6 a pound, up from $4 earlier.

Brandon King, who owns R-Pizza in Vermillion, South Dakota, said availability issues forced him to change pepperoni brands for the first time in his nearly nine years running the parlour. Earlier in the pandemic, restaurants saw high prices and shortages for other meat toppings, like ground beef. But while beef’s spike appears to be easing, pepperoni prices have stayed high.

Barry Friends, a partner at food service consultant Pentallect, said the ingredient’s labour-intensive process and low profit margins have made some producers say “screw it” as they streamline operations amid the coronavirus. Pork processors “are basically just shipping out large pieces of meat for further processing,” he said. “They’re not doing as much because they don’t have the people to do the work.”

It’s not just a supply issue — demand is also up. Pizza restaurants have shown resiliency through the pandemic as homebound consumers turned to the original delivery staple for comfort food. Domino’s Pizza said the shift to more takeout and delivery offered a “tailwind,” and Papa John’s International reported record North American same-store sales in its latest quarterly earnings.


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