Today, Little Caesars—the third largest pizza chain in the world—is adding vegan pepperoni to the menu of hundreds of its restaurants nationwide. The new plant-based pepperoni is made by vegan brand Field Roast Grain Co. and will be available as a topping on any custom pizza and as part of a Planteroni pizza ($8.49), made with the vegan pepperoni and dairy-based cheese. The chain is also featuring the new vegan pepperoni as part of a Slices-N-Sticks promotion—where for $8, customers get half of a Planteroni pizza and dairy-cheese covered bread sticks.
“Planteroni delivers a plant-based version of the delicious flavor of America’s most popular pizza topping, and you need to taste it to believe it,” Jeff Klein, Chief Marketing Officer at Little Caesars, said. “This product is really going to surprise and delight our customers.”
The new vegan pepperoni and Planteroni pizza are available in the cities and suburbs of Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, and the chain’s hometown of Detroit. Participation and pricing may vary.
Field Roast’s vegan pepperoni
First unveiled in January, Field Roast’s vegan pepperoni is made with pea protein, features fat marbling to mimic its pork-derived counterpart, and is spiced with pieces of fennel, cracked black pepper, garlic, and paprika. The vegan pepperoni became available to foodservice providers in Canada and the United States at the beginning of the year and started shipping to retailers in the second quarter of 2021.
With the addition of Field Roast’s new product to its menu, Little Caesars became the largest national pizza chain to offer the brand’s—or any plant-based pepperoni—so broadly. “This is a huge moment for pizza lovers because for the first time, they have access to a zesty, bold plant-based pepperoni made with pea protein that absolutely delivers on taste,” Dan Curtin, President of Field Roast parent company Greenleaf Foods, said. “We believe every occasion deserves bold, inspired flavors—we’re excited to work with Little Caesars to deliver on that promise.”
Little Caesars is offering Field Roast’s vegan pepperoni at many, but not all, of its more than 4,100 US locations in response to consumer data that shows 69 percent of Americans are interested in ordering plant-based meat. “We anticipate that this product will be wildly successful and we intend to launch it nationally once that is confirmed,” Jill Proctor, Director of Media Relations at Little Caesars, told VegNews.
Before the Little Caesars launch, Canadian chain Pizza Nova was the first to add Field Roast’s Plant-Based Pepperoni to its menu at more than 140 locations across Southern Ontario. There, the chain serves the vegan pepperoni as a topping for pizzas and a filling for panzerottis (similar to calzones), and as part of six new plant-based creations, including new pizzas.
Plant-based at Little Caesars
The addition of Field Roast’s vegan pepperoni isn’t the first time Little Caesars added plant-based meat toppings to its menu. In 2018, the chain began working with Impossible Foods to create a plant-based sausage—a meatless version of the most-ordered topping at the chain—that it put on its menu for a limited time in May 2019. The Impossible Supreme Pizza (which was not vegan-friendly as it was topped with dairy-based cheese) featured the bespoke plant-based sausage and was available for a limited time at select Little Caesars locations in Ft. Meyers, FL, Albuquerque, NM, and Yakima, WA.
The chain has since discontinued the Impossible Sausage Pizza and pivoted to explore other options, such as the vegan pepperoni-topped Planteroni pizza. And while the crust and sauce at Little Caesars is made without animal-derived ingredients, the chain does not currently offer dairy-free cheese to go with its vegan pepperoni. However, that might soon change. “We are committed to innovation and we are always testing new products,” Proctor said. “While we don’t offer plant-based cheese just yet, we are constantly evaluating options.”
Meat giants take on vegan pepperoni
In addition to Field Roast, many brands offer a plant-based take on the classic pizza topping, including an unlikely company: meat giant Hormel. Known for its canned meat product SPAM, Hormel ventured into plant-based territory in 2019 with the launch of Happy Little Plants—a fully vegan meat brand. Its first launch was called “Uncooked Plant-Based Ground Product,” a vegan meat that cooks and tastes similar to ground turkey or beef.
In September 2020, the brand released its vegan pepperoni in the foodservice channel. Hormel worked closely with foodservice operators to develop the vegan pepperoni, which is made with the same spice blend as Hormel’s traditional pepperoni but without animal meat. The meat company’s vegan pepperoni debuted on the menu at select locations of national fast-food chain Papa Murphy’s in Austin and Dallas, TX; Duluth, MN; Fargo, ND; and Las Vegas, NV.