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Pizza Hut: It's OK to Go Crazy (With Cheesy Crust Pizza)

Chain Bucks Health conscious Trend, Launches Over-the-Top Pie With 16 Cheese Pockets

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No one can say that Pizza Hut's been playing it safe when it comes to crazy new products.

The chain this week is rolling out a Crazy Cheesy Crust pizza, which promises "an explosion of flavor at every bite." It's essentially a traditional Pizza Hut pizza with 16 pockets of cheese around the crust. Pizza Hut is touting new flavors with the pizza, as the pockets house five types of cheese.

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Pizza Hut is well aware that this limited-time product is a little strange, and is promoting it as such.

"On pizza night, sometimes it's O.K. to go a little crazy," said spokesman Doug Terfehr. "We think we have the product that lives up to that promise." Digital marketing for it launches today--the same day the product debuts-- thought TV advertising begins this weekend. Interpublic's Martin Agency created the TV advertising, Omnicom's TracyLocke is handling the social marketing and Interpublic's Huge was responsible for digital marketing.

Mr. Terfehr said that the Crazy Crust pizza is not necessarily more innovative than Pizza Hut's other recent new products in the U.S., such as the recent pizza sliders, which are small, single-serving pizzas. But "From a wow and a beauty standpoint, it's one of the pizzas we're most proud of," he said. "We really think this is one of our most creative pizzas ever." As such, it's one of the company's biggest launches this year.

The over-the-top pizza is counter to the healthful marketing tactics many other fast-food chains are using, such as McDonald's introducing the McWrap, in the hopes of luring calorie-counting customers. Pizza chains in general seem to be less concerned with attracting such consumers.

Pizza Hut's new product has roughly the same calories per serving as the pan pizza and stuffed-crust pizzas: 1/8 of a large 14-inch cheese pan or stuffed pizza contains between 110 and 125 calories and 12 to 17 grams of fat.

Pizza Hut in the U.S. has typically been more adventurous in product innovation that competitors such as Papa John's and Domino's--it launched a stuffed crust pizza back in the '90s. And despite the designation of "crazy," the new pizza is decidedly tame compared to some of Pizza Hut's inventions overseas.

The chain has long been offering bizarre varieties in foreign markets, going back as far as the '70s. More recent products include include one in the Middle East called the Crown Crust (below), which is an assemblage of ingredients related to one of two themes: a cheeseburger pizza and a chicken fillet pizza. Also in the Middle East Pizza Hut last year unveiled the Cone Crust pizza [left], which had parmesan-crusted cones stuffed either with cream cheese or honey mustard chicken in lieu of a crust.

In the U.K., Pizza Hut last year unveiled its Hot Dog stuffed crust pizza (left), which was advertised with a free mustard drizzle. And in Japan, Pizza Hut offered a menacing pizza that included mini hamburger patties, edamame, corn and a mini-hot dog stuffed crust, accompanied by maple syrup and ketchup dipping sauces. Pizza Hut in Norway offered a pizza topped with fries.

Just earlier this month Pizza Hut in Canada announced it would bring the Crown Crust pizza to market, but there are no immediate plans to bring such products to the U.S. "Those [pizzas] are successful overseas because customers just see those things as American foods.... hot dog and pizzas are both American, so they should go together," said Mr. Terfehr. "What we think we've created [with the Crazy Cheesy Crust pizza] is what Americans love. What they love is cheese and that's what we're able to provide."

Pizza Hut declined to comment on how long the pizza will be available. The Yum Brand company last year spent about $239 million on U.S. measured media, according to Kantar, up 8.5% from 2011.

Customers can order any topping on the Crazy Cheesy Crust pizza -- including extra cheese.

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