When a company creates a clever product innovation that shakes up a mature food category, it deserves a shout out: Say hello to Pizza Hut Australia’s new Four’N Twenty Meat Pie Pizza.
Ever notice the double standard that applies to the pizza category?
When a pizza is topped with pepperoni, sausage and/or bacon, it’s described as “a heart attack waiting to happen,” a “bypass in a box,” or some other crudely critical condemnation.
And that’s by the people who love to eat them!
However, when the very same dough, sauce and oil combo features toppings of green peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and black truffles, why, it’s a wonderful gourmet delight that can be enjoyed by sophisticated lovers of fine food with no nutritional qualms whatsoever.
Here’s a perfect example of what I mean, in this case, a reference to a new concoction introduced by the Pizza Hut in Australia.
“The Four’N Twenty Stuffed Crust Pizza is the latest fast food mash-up to slither out of Pizza Hut’s nefarious lab,” a scathing review on the website Lifehacker.com.au began. “As its name implies, each slice of pizza has a Four’N Twenty party pie nestled in its crust.”
Let me pause for a moment here for a brief explanation.
What’s a party pie, ie, a meat pie, you ask? If you’re an Aussie, a Kiwi or a Brit, no explanation needed: you grew up ’em. For the rest of us, a meat pie is a hand-held hot pastry containing diced beef, pork or hamburger drenched in gravy. For the gourmet diner, one can also choose from added onions, mushrooms or cheese.
Four’N Twenty, one of the leading meat pie marketers Down Under, takes its name from the classic English nursery rhyme:
Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie.
Only they’ve moved on from blackbirds to more palatable proteins.
“One of these days, Pizza Hut is going to run out of stuff to jam in its crusts,” the review of the Four’N Twenty Meat Pie concluded, heaping scorn on a product that is not only new and different, but awesome!
The pizza-plus-meat-pie concept follows less-successful attempts to “jazz up” Pizza Hut’s menu offerings, including crusts made from Doritos and toppings that included cheeseburgers and even Vegemite (if you have to ask what that is, trust me — you won’t like it).
And instead of a pre-sauced pie, the Four’N Twenty Meat Pie Pizza is delivered with a handful of tomato sauce packets tucked in the box, which means customers can get the pie-to-sauce ratio just the way they like it. And the chain’s tagline, “Fifty Shades of Great,” doesn’t directly address the new pizza’s uniqueness, but there’s a word for such slogans:
And here’s the most interesting part: After ripping the new pizza for its (alleged) lowbrow positioning, the hacker-slackers at Lifehacker decided to actually taste test the Four’N Twenty Meat Pie Pizza. Here are the verbatim responses they reported:
· Angus Kidman, Lifehacker Editor: “First thought: Ordering a meat lover’s pizza with a meat pie attached would be a great way to annoy any passing vegans. Second thought: This is a perfectly pleasant eating experience, but the food isn’t really integrated, so you end up eating a pizza and then eating a pie.”
· Chris Jager, Lifehacker Journalist: “The thing that most surprised me about this was the quality of the meat pie. I was expecting a meagre dollop of brown gunk encased in soggy pastry. Instead, it was a perfectly serviceable party pie with actual meat inside. The Four’N Twenty partnership clearly paid off.”
· Rob Hussey, TechnoManager: “Pretty much tasted as you’d expect — a regular pizza on the pointy end, a regular party pie on the rounded end.”
· Benjamin Hutton, Sales Coordinator: “It was a little underwhelming when the real thing arrived after seeing the epic picture. Also, they committed a cardinal meat pie sin: the ratio of meat-to-pie was unsatisfyingly disproportionate.”
Hardly the kind of snarky disapproval the original article suggested — although . . . there was one other volunteer taste tester, on Luke Hopewell, the Gizmodo Editor (whatever that is), who did put the kibosh on the product’s novelty appeal.
“I didn’t need to taste meat-pie pizza to know it was going to be a bad idea. I weep for the taste buds of those who tried it. Mark this day in your calendar: today is the day that innovation in circular food went too far. It’s Pizza Hut’s 9-1-1. The Skynet of food. We’ve gone too far, and I want out.”
Not me. I’m with the guy who plans to annoy passing vegans.
Dan Murphy is a food-industry journalist and commentator