Metro Pizza co-owner John Arena speaks during a demonstration at the Marra Forni Brick Oven Coo ...

Las Vegas Pizza Expo trends

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The Las Vegas Convention Center’s West Hall has been filled all week with one of the most delicious industry gatherings of the year: the International Pizza Expo. More than 300 booths filled the cavernous meeting space, many offering tastes of flatbreads and other tasty tidbits. Some of the booths veered to the traditional side of the pizza industry, while others were future-forward, showcasing high-tech developments in the savory pie world. Here are five of our favorite finds:

Keto Flour Blend from Ardent Mills

For the carbohydrate-conscious pizza lover, this Denver-based company focuses on proprietary flour blends that allow pizza makers to knead pizza dough that pleases the keto-friendly crowd.

“With the formulations that we have in place, you can get to the carb count that you want,” said Ardent Mills representative Lindsay Routt.

Pizza is not generally known as a keto diet mainstay, but Routt said that their flour mix changes the baking game.

“You can eat pizza,” she said. “You can have a crust that will balance out,” she said, noting that the flour blend was recently certified by the Paleo Foundation.

PizzaMaster Electric Deck Ovens

In one of the most impressive displays at the exposition, PizzaMaster electric deck ovens from Sweden are eye-catching with their gleaming metal-and-glass exteriors and digital control panels.

“We’ve got 80 different models in 1,500 configurations, said Larry Nicholson, a restaurant equipment distributor who sells the all-electric ovens.

“They’re incredibly energy efficient,” he said. He also pointed out their glazed ceramic interiors are heat sinks that hold temperatures steady, something desirable in baking.

Triple-decked, the ovens let pizza makers bake numerous pies at one time at varying temperatures.

“Within a 500- to 700-degree window, you can do Roman, you can do pan pizza,” said customer Michael Vakneen, the pizzaiolo at Las Vegas’ Pop Up pizza in the Plaza Hotel and Casino, of styles that can be baked in the ovens. He also listed Detroit, Sicilian, grandma and New York-style among other possibilities.

“We have such flexibility with [the] oven; we do multiple styles in my shop. It gives us the ability to really have a lot more fun,” he said.

As even more of a product endorsement, Vakneen went on to win one of the Expo’s pizza-making competitions with one of the ovens.

Ooni Pizza Ovens

Over the past few years, metallic Ooni Pizza Ovens were something of a niche product that pizza superfans would purchase at places like REI and Williams-Sonoma. Recently, however, the company has been running a major TV ad campaign, and they’re now being sold at more mainstream places like Dick’s Sporting Goods.

“All of our ovens can get up to 950 degrees Fahrenheit — 500 Celsius — in about 15 minutes. So that means that at home in your backyard, or wherever you want outside since our ovens are really portable — you can cook true Neapolitan pizza in under 60 seconds,” said Ooni spokesperson Zach Miller of the models available to home pizza chefs.

SOLO Electric Delivery Vehicles

One of the flashiest displays at the Expo was a bright-red, futuristic-looking one-person electric vehicle built by Electra Meccanica in Mesa, Ariz. Known as a SOLO, the company is marketing it to pizzerias that deliver.

“It’s registered and insured as a motorcycle,” said James Augustino of Electra Meccanica, but it’s fully enclosed and has an insulated trunk for pizza box holders. It also can reach 80 miles an hour for truly speedy deliveries.

Follow Your Heart cheese

Pizza calls for cheese, but not everybody wants or can eat dairy products, so Follow Your Heart is one of the food producers at the Expo offering plant-based options.

Paul Spinale, national sales manager for the company, says that Follow Your Heart recently improved its pizza cheese recipe so that it melts like traditional milk-based products like mozzarella.

“It’s the spread of it, that’s the term that we use,” he said, “the spread is really nice, like a real cheese — you don’t get that hash-browned look,” said Spinale. Just to his side as he spoke, his Follow Your Heart team members served up crispy mini slices of pie complete with the company’s casein-free product. It’s how business is done at the Pizza Expo.

Contact Greg Thilmont at [email protected] or 702-380-4551. Follow @gregthilmont on Instagram.

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