No one knows what Papa John's 'better ingredients' actually are -- but the company is trying to make a big change

In the chain restaurant industry, the meaning of “better ingredients” is constantly evolving.

As a result, Papa John’s — whose slogan is “better ingredients, better pizza” — has been forced to adapt.

On Tuesday, the company announced it was testing organic toppings in Lexington, Kentucky, in an effort to maintain its position as the “cleanest label among national pizza chains.” According to the company, this test is a first step towards considering if organic toppings are viable on a larger scale.

“At Papa John’s, we are constantly looking at ways to meet the needs of our customers whether it’s through our clean label initiative or testing organic produce,” Sean Muldoon, Papa John’s chief ingredient officer, said in a statement.

Of course, “clean” labels and “better” ingredients mean different things to different customers. Panera Bread and Chipotle are currently feuding over whether or not natural flavours can be considered “clean.”

Papa John’s has used the phrase “better ingredients, better pizza” as its slogan since 1995, and the company says that it invests $US100 million a year in higher quality ingredients. In 2016, the chain announced it had cut artificial flavours and colours from its food menu.

But the chain has been cagey in the past about what “better ingredients” actually means. In 2013, a reporter for US News And World Report said she was shut down by the company when she tried to identify what its ingredients actually were.

Pizza Hut, a competitor of Papa John’s, has also attempted to debunk the “better ingredients” claim.

Now, Papa John’s says that the idea of better ingredients is more of a guiding philosophy than a specific promise.

“No matter how good you are, you can always be better,” founder and CEO John Schnatter told QSR Magazine in 2015. “When I say, ‘better ingredients, better pizza,’ I’d better back it up.”

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