Pizza Hut, a dairy checkoff partner, increased the amount of cheese on its pan pizzas by 25%, a move that will require an additional 150 million pounds of milk annually to meet the change. The project was made possible thanks to dairy scientist Nitin Joshi, a Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) employee who works on-site at Pizza Hut’s headquarters in Plano, Texas. Pan pizza is the chain’s signature product offering, DMI said, and the new formulations are now available at more than 6,000 restaurants nationwide.

“Pizza Hut is known for its craveable, iconic pizzas, and its leadership believes that more cheese in more places is a way to make their pizzas even more delicious,” Joshi said. “This obviously is great news for our dairy farmers, as more Pizza Hut consumers will get to enjoy more of the wholesome products that are made possible because of the hard work our farmers do each day on their farms.”

Joshi said the project began in 2016 but needed to clear several hurdles throughout 2017 before it became a reality. DMI said it first shared research and insights to help convince Pizza Hut that consumers want more cheese on pizza. This led to a discussion of how much cheese to add to the chain’s existing pan pizza recipe to make a noticeable difference with consumers.

Then there was the challenge of ensuring the pizza would be cooked consistently across the country. Joshi said Pizza Hut uses several different types of ovens in its restaurants nationwide, so it was critical to create a pizza that would have uniform melt, stretch and color qualities. The Pizza Hut team prepared about 8,500 pizzas before settling on a finished product. The team then conducted training sessions with franchise operators across the country.

“This is another great example of the power of a partner working with our checkoff team to give consumers a product they truly desire,” said Marilyn Hershey, Pennsylvania dairy farmer and chairman of DMI, which manages the national dairy checkoff. “It’s also a win for farmers as we continue to explore new and innovative avenues for our milk production through our partnerships.”