By: James Green
A thing of beauty, the International Pizza Expo arrived in town Monday, filling the Las Vegas Convention Center with the smells of bubbling mozzarella and parmesan, fresh tomato sauce and aromatic, bready and crispy crusts.
More than 500 exhibitors and 1,500 booths packed into the center, where sample pies accompanied delectable meatballs, golden garlic knots, super sized shrimp cocktails and more treats on crowded plates at the pizza industry’s main event.
The show, which caters to restauranteurs, business people and others with interests in pizza sales and manufacturing, was particularly large this year and effective. Multiple restauranteurs we spoke to said this was among the most innovative Pizza Expo they’ve seen in recent years, with new ovens designed to cater to the Millennial “fast pizza” trend and sauces that incorporate the organic, fair-trade practices today’s consumers are demanding.
“It’s so refreshing to see this,” said Patricia Amond, a buyer for Mark’s Pizza Warehouse in Miami. “These are really the things our clients have been asking for, and now we actually can say, ‘We have it for you.’”
New tools to quickly and efficiently manage the mass production of pizzas were also on the menu, as were companies offering to maximize social media followings, advertising their contracts with chains including Mario’s Sauces and Trevi Spice. In other words, the conference was 50 percent business and 50 percent pizza-partaking pleasure.
According to the website for the 36th annual event, “Attendees include pizzeria or pizza-concept restaurant owners, operators and managers, as well as distributors and food brokers. Exhibitors include suppliers of pizza ingredients and pizza flour, point-of-sales systems, ovens, kitchen equipment, marketing and promotional materials and many other companies providing goods and services to the pizza restaurant industry.”
Pizza chain owner Mark Davies, who spends half the year in Baja and the other half at his Los Angeles-based restaurant, said he was thrilled to see more innovation.
”I almost didn’t come. Now i’m So glad I did,” he said. “It’s definitely a breath of fresh air to come and see some of the real innovations they’re marketing this year.”