Naked Pizza: The Trojan Horse of the Pizza Industry

ban-startup-friday

Who doesn’t like pizza? Even the owner of ihatepizza.com can’t work up ire about his favorite least favorite food. I’m a fan, which is one reason Naked Pizza was among the most captivating components of Val Casey’s keynote at SXSW. Casey discussed the importance of meeting people where they are, when it comes to sustainability, and she used Naked Pizza an example of a business that embodies that motive.

Naked Pizza is a start-up out of New Orleans that was founded by a former anthropologist and a real estate developer  who wanted to do the impossible and make pizza a health food. This wasn’t just about waistlines- the partners realized that making health food delicious and familiar is one of the keys to solving the obesity crisis. Funded by dotcom winner Mark Cuban and The Kraft Group, team Naked Pizza cites a simple equation as its key to success:

All-natural, reduced-calorie, multi-grain, probiotic pizza – preachy brand image  +  Twitter  = Naked Pizza

Brilliant.

Naked Pizza decided that rather than trying to focus on changing consumer behavior, they’d change the formation of the pizza itself with probiotics, fiber and skim milk cheese. And, it’s actually not so bad for you, according to the nutrition facts they offer. By meeting customers where they are,  Naked Pizza can get a word in edgewise and start educating its customers about healthy food and food politics *after* they’ve become fans. They call themselves the Trojan horse of pizza.

Beyond just being health food purveyors in disguise, Naked Pizza is the Trojan horse of  the franchise business model. The startup stumbled on a business model that is highly scalable due to its limited menu, delivery model, price point and store size. That’s all good in the traditional franchise sense, but more importantly, Naked Pizza is transparent, a master of social media, and has a social mission. It will impart these values to franchisees, sneaking in a new way of doing business along with god-honest-good-for-you pizza. Naked Pizza shows that fast food doesn’t have to be soul-less and terrible. Just take a look at this excerpt from the company prospectus:

Marry a deep mission, social responsibility, a no-bullshit approach to sustainability with conscious business and fair, unapologetic profitability.Change the way people eat, rock a food industry that abandoned its primary responsibility decades ago, including an opportunistic, often predatory and health-destroying fast-food industry. Reinvent franchising while you’re at it. Oh hell, why not just change the whole business paradigm? A paralyzing global recession seems like as good a time as any to reset the whole damn thing so that the most talented people can contribute to wealth and job creation in ways that benefit society rather than diminish it.


These guys aren’t just turning pizza on its head, they are turning business on its head too.

Jen is editor in chief of TriplePundit. She has an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School and lives in Oakland with her husband and baby. 
Hit her up at on twitter @jenboynton to discuss diapering strategies or sustainability reporting methodology.