Brand Fail: Papa John’s Introduces Gluten Free Pizza Gluten Intolerant People Can’t Eat

Papa John's Gluten Free Pizza Capitalizes on Trend, But Gluten Intolerant People Can't Eat It

Gluten free foods are a huge trend right now. So understandably, restaurants and food brands are trying to capitalize in any way possible. The latest major chain to do so, Papa John’s (NASDAQ:PZZA), might want to rethink its strategy though.

Papa John’s Gluten Free Pizza Not So Gluten Free

The popular pizza chain recently introduced a gluten free pizza. And while the actual ingredients are gluten free, and the crust is made in a separate facility, there’s a danger the pizza could come into contact with gluten in the chain’s restaurants. So Papa John’s has actually advised people with celiac disease to steer clear.

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Of course, not everyone who orders gluten free foods has a gluten intolerance or other food allergy. So it’s possible that Papa John’s gluten free pizza product could simply appeal to health conscious or trendy consumers. But in general the company’s need to walk back its gluten free claims isn’t great for the brand.

There’s a fine line between capitalizing on a trend in an authentic way and simply using a buzzword to make a few quick sales. Creating a gluten free pizza gluten intolerant people can’t actually eat may come off as self-serving and even dishonest.

Even those who aren’t gluten intolerant but buy gluten free products may see the company’s marketing message as manipulative. And these customers too could refuse to buy the product and develop a negative impression of the Papa John’s brand. So in the end,  the company might have been better off never making gluten free claims in the first place.

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Papa John’s Photo via Shutterstock 6 Comments ▼

Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

6 Reactions
  1. Does this mean that pizza sellers are now listening to their health conscious eaters? I think so.

  2. I think that giving their customers some options doesn’t mean that they are changing their target market entirely. I think that they are widening their market.

  3. You know Domino’s went through the same problem, but as a gluten intolerant I commend Papa John’s for at least being honest from the get-go unlike Domino’s, who put out a disclaimer after people were turning up sick after eating their “gluten free” pizza.

  4. It’s a step and some of us Celiacs are able to handle contaminations, albeit not good for anyone with the disease. If I have the option of binge eating a regular pizza vs a maybe contaminated gluten-free pizza, why cringe? They’re not trying to pass it off as anything. It straight up says not valid for people with Celiac due to cross-contamination. Take that as you may, but don’t ruin my benefit, just because you can’t join in? As I said, steps. It’s like a trial. They will improve if given the chance. Progress.

  5. Here is the thing: People with Celiac disease were not part of Papa Johns target demographic to begin with. And people who do not have Celiac disease, but like to pretend they do, are a disgrace to humanity. I applaud what Papa Johns has done, and I believe I will order a Pizza from them for lunch as a result of reading this story.