Ah, Pizza Hut. The site of many ‘fine dining’ dates back in my high school days. Hey, they had a waitress and nobody asked, “Do you want fries with that?” To my friends and me back in the '80’s that constituted fine dining. I fondly remember sitting in a booth on a date sharing a pile of Mozzarella bread, a deep dish pizza and a couple of bottomless Cokes.

Why this stroll down memory lane? MNN’s fabulous home blogger, Matt, told me that Pizza Hut is launching the first stage in a menu-wide transition to pizzas made entirely from natural ingredients, available nationally beginning Jan. 11. The new pizzas will provide customers the opportunity to enjoy Pizza Hut pizza free from artificial preservatives, colors and flavors.

Pizza Hut says they are doing this to give the customers what they want. They did some research and they found out that “73% of those tested agreed that foods that are natural have flavor the way it was meant to taste.” (Ya, I’m not sure what that means, either).

They also found that customers “showed a strong preference toward all-natural ingredients in the markets where The Natural was unveiled.” The Natural is the name they are giving to their new natural pizza. It “features a flavorful multi-grain crust with eight grams of whole grains per slice, and is topped with an all-natural sauce made from vine-ripened tomatoes and all-natural mozzarella cheese.”

Last week, I did a post on healthy labeling and wrote about how the term “natural” has a very vague meaning. There are no set standards when it comes to labeling a food natural.

Here’s what Pizza Hut is considering natural.

Pizza Hut's new ingredients include all-natural sauce from vine-ripened tomatoes with no high-fructose corn syrup; all-natural pepperoni with no artificial preservatives, no nitrites or nitrates added; all-natural Italian sausage with no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives; and 100% real beef with no fillers. Pizza Hut customers will notice the company's commitment to real taste with a new signature red Pizza Hut pizza box made from 40 percent recycled materials that will debut across the country today.
It doesn’t seem to be such a bad start. No high fructose corn syrup. That’s good. No artificial preservatives, no nitrates, no artificial colors or flavors. These are things I like to see when it comes to the food I give my family.

But notice I say it’s a start. I don’t see the word organic anywhere (and to be fair they aren’t claiming anything is organic). Their natural sauce could be made from tomatoes grown with chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Same with the whole wheat used for their crusts.

I don’t want to come down on Pizza Hut. Their efforts are a step in a fabulous direction, and if I was in a pinch and had to choose between a crummy fast food burger for my kids or Pizza Hut’s The Natural, I would feel good about having The Natural as a choice.

For more information visit http://www.pizzahut.com/real/.

Image: helgasms! 

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Pizza Hut unveils 'The Natural'
Find out what's natural about Pizza Hut's latest pizza, The Natural.