Papa John's just became the first pizza chain to make a massive change to its ingredients

Papa John’s has completed a major transition toward building a cleaner menu.

The pizza chain has completed its transition to poultry raised without antibiotics and fed a vegetarian diet for grilled chicken pizza toppings and chicken poppers, the company told Business Insider. This makes Papa John’s the first pizza chain to make such a switch.

“This transition is where the industry is going — consumers want raised-without-antibiotics chicken,” Papa John’s chief ingredient officer Sean Muldoon told Business Insider. “We’re proud to be the first.”

Papa John’s announced plans to make the switch the antibiotic-free chicken last December, due to growing consumer concerns regarding the practice of farmers’ over-reliance on the drugs.

Research, including a 2013 report from the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention, offer evidence that antibiotic overdose is contributing to the rise of super-strong bacteria that no longer respond to antibiotics. If the problem is allowed to continue, it could mean a future in which we can no longer treat infections using antibiotics, thanks to the rise of superbugs.

Muldoon says that Papa John’s focus on what the company calls its “clean label journey” is inspired by a mix of consumer demand and scientific research.

“We’re a very consumer-centric company,” says Muldoon, with Papa John’s drawing from research on consumer trends and discussions with its supply chain. “We’re not always just chasing the next shiny object… but we try to be very clear in terms of how we define ‘clean label’ — what that means to us, and where those lines are.”

The company reports that its “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza” promise costs the company $100 million a year. In January, Papa John’s became the first national pizza chain to cut artificial ingredients from its food menu.

Next on the list: converting to cage-free eggs and completing the promise to cut 14 “unwanted” additives, including corn syrup, from the menu by the end of the year.

However, at the core of any restaurant chain remains the question of taste, something that Papa John’s says will not be compromised by changes. According to Muldoon, Papa John’s conducted months of testing, including a side-by-side taste test, to ensure that the new chicken’s flavours remained the same.

The chain’s commitment to quality is paying off. In June, Papa John’s was named the top pizza chain in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), with a score of 82 out of 100. This is the 15th time out of the previous 17 years the chain has earned top marks in the pizza industry in overall customer satisfaction.

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