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Ranking: Vegan Pizza in the Food Service Sector

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Pizza is one of the favorite foods consumed in Germany and available almost anywhere. Whether it’s on-the-go, at a restaurant or from a delivery service: We could eat pizza all day, every day. But is that also true for vegans and people interested in reducing their consumption of animal products, or do they still have to make do with unsatisfactory plant-based options?

To answer that, we decided to take a closer look, for the second time around, at the menus of the biggest German pizza delivery services and food service chains that serve pizza as an essential part of their menu. We were curious: Had the vegan options improved since our last pizza ranking conducted two years ago?

Summary of Results

The indisputable winner of our ranking is Vapiano. The company impressed us with offering two vegan pizzas and more vegan main dishes than any of its competitors while also following a clear labelling strategy. Call a Pizza came in second with four vegan pizzas but otherwise little plant-based foods to offer and Domino’s came in as the strong third. While Freddy Fresh at least has one vegan pizza on its menu, the companies on all ranks following – L’Osteria, Flying Pizza, Pizza Hut and Smiley’s – truly disappointed us.

It should be clear that, today, simply leaving off the cheese made from animal milk does no longer qualify as providing satisfying vegan pizza options but even this is still being disregarded by some companies. Much better would be letting all customers choose whether they would like to add plant-based cheese or cheese made from cow’s milk.

Regarding the pizza selection, we generally miss being able to choose from a good mix of classics and innovative pizza creations. It would be great if the vegetable pizza with a cheese alternative were not the only go-to vegan pizza creation but instead companies would also offer a Pizza Salami with a plant-based meat alternative more often. We would also love to see more vegan dips and dressings as well as other plant-based main dishes. And finally: there is lots of room for improvement regarding animal product free desserts.

The Company Results in Detail

1 st place: Vapiano

Vapiano came in third in our ranking two years ago – today, the company leads the way with some convincing vegan options. One fifth of the menu is vegan. Consumers can choose from two pizzas with a cheese alternative and a plant-based meat alternative. Consumers can also opt for other vegan main dishes such as one of several pasta creations or a bowl. Overall, Vapiano offers the most vegan main dishes compared to all its competitors in the ranking. There are also several starters and salad dressings available that are free from animal products.

We also want to praise that Vapiano promotes its vegan dishes actively on its social media channels and labels them clearly and consistently.

Vapiano’s future is currently uncertain. Due to insolvency, the German restaurants will supposedly be taken over by a consortium of various European players of the foodservice industry. We hope that the company will deal well with these changes and that the vegan options will be just as good or even better in the future – not only in Germany, but also at the company’s international store locations.

Compared to our last ranking, there has not been much development regarding second place finisher Call a Pizza. The company did not expand its vegan options significantly in the past two years but was still able to defend second place. Customers can still order four vegan pizzas, which means Call a Pizza has the largest vegan pizza selection of all the companies in the ranking. Unfortunately, their menu does not offer any other plant-based main dishes. However, they do provide some plant-based dips and dressings as well as salad and ice cream. As part of a limited special offer, they are offering a vegan burger.

The company’s website and its filter function, which only allows for vegetarian-vegan searches, leaves some room for improvement. We are looking forward to seeing whether Call a Pizza will stick with its simple yeast-based cheese alternative or will try some more sophisticated alternatives in the near future.
International pizza giant Domino’s was able to secure third place with two vegan pizza options. In the current third quarter of 2020, they also have a limited special offer pizza with a meat alternative on their menu. Whether the special offer pizza with its vegan fillet pieces will become a permanent option on the menu, Domino’s has not announced yet. We were very happy with the fact that the vegan grated cheese alternative costs as much as the cheese made from cow’s milk.

Domino’s could have earned some more points if they were offering other vegan main dishes, desserts or dips.
Freddy Fresh is a new addition to our ranking. The company has made a valuable first step in creating appealing vegan options for their customers: they can order a vegan plain pizza with cheese and then add various toppings. Freddy Fresh’s cheese alternative costs as much as the cheese made from cow’s milk and can also be picked for some of the available snacks. Also, Freddy Fresh is one of the two only companies in this ranking that have an animal product free dessert on the menu.

However, we did miss an interesting special pizza creation, clear labelling of vegan dishes and a good filtering function on the company website.
We, and many customers, sincerely hoped that following our last ranking, L’Osteria would change the recipe of its pizza dough to only plant-based ingredients but to no avail. L’Osteria rejects making any changes here, referring to its twenty year short »company tradition«. This only leaves a few options to people who want to reduce or cut out animal products.
The plus side: Flying Pizza’s pizza dough is vegan. Unfortunately, that was all the good news when it comes to their vegan pizza options. They do not offer a cheese alternative and cheese made from cow’s milk cannot be removed from the pizza during the online ordering process. We could not find any warm vegan main dishes or a labelling strategy for plant-based products (salad, some starters and dips). If Flying Pizza were to turn some of its vegetarian options into all-vegan ones, they could perform much better in our next ranking.
Pizza Hut has changed the recipe of its pizza dough to all plant-based ingredients since our last ranking. Unfortunately, the company still does not offer a vegan cheese alternative. However, it is possible to remove the cheese made from cow’s milk during the ordering process – which is why we spared Pizza Hut the last place of this ranking.

What we regret especially is that Pizza Hut Germany is light years behind the efforts of its sister companies, for example in the UK, Australia, Puerto Rico and the US. There you can already find vegan pizzas, nuggets and other plant-based dishes on the menus. In Great Britain, Pizza Hut has even changed the recipe of its cheesecakes to a completely vegan formulation. Also, the company has mentioned that it is considering replacing all cheese made from cow’s milk with vegan cheese alternatives to become carbon neutral. We are, however, not giving up hope that Pizza Hut Germany will follow suit soon.
Since the last ranking, Smiley’s has not expanded its vegan portfolio while its competitors have made adjustments, which is why the company drops from fourth to eighth place. Except for a salad and some pizza buns, there are no options for hungry vegans.

How did we evaluate?

For our ranking, we evaluated the biggest German pizza delivery services. We also included food service chains that serve pizza as an essential part of their menu. Smaller pizza chains, such as World of Pizza or Mundfein, who have had some good vegan options for some time now, could not be considered in the ranking due to their size.

We analyzed the menus of the companies that were available as of July 1, 2020. We took an especially close look at the pizza options, however, we did also consider other main dishes, starters, snacks and side dishes, dressings, dips and desserts. We also took into account if and how companies advertise their vegan dishes, whether they label them clearly and whether there is a filter function for vegan foods on their website.

Our Conclusion

Overall, the vegan pizza options have improved since 2018. The use of vegan cheese alternatives is common today and a handful of intriguing pizza creations has made it onto the regular menus of a couple of pizza chains. Nevertheless, customers can only find a vegan pizza on the menus of four of the eight largest companies in the sector. This by no means qualifies as »broad availability« and still needs to be expanded a good deal, especially when considering the creativity being displayed when it comes to non-vegan pizzas. The growing popularity of plant-based meat alternatives and the solid interest in reducing meat consumption show that the growing demand is only slowly being met by a supply that is lagging behind. We are looking forward to observing how the companies will evolve in the coming years – and whether some of the interesting menu additions we see internationally will make it to German pizzas chains.