Pizza Hut on Monday will roll out nationally an almost-pizza-sized chocolate-chip cookie — eight inches in diameter and cut into eight slices.
While the pizza giant officially has christened the new product — done in partnership with Hershey — the Ultimate Hershey's Chocolate Chip Cookie, internally they've dubbed it the pizza cookie.
They might as well call it the millennial cookie. It's all about getting more 18 to 34-year-olds to not just share pizza at home, but a hot, gooey cookie to boot.
Like the rest of the $39 billion pizza industry, Pizza Hut is trying to boost sales in a very competitive market, particularly among younger consumers
"Millennials tell us it's what they want," says Carrie Walsh, chief marketing officer at Pizza Hut. "They like to cap off a great pizza with a great dessert." Customers who buy it with a pizza get it for $4.99 — solo it goes for $5.99. And, of course, they'll be available along with pizza for warm delivery.
More recently, pizza chains have been pushing desserts — from cinnamon sticks at Domino's to pizza-shaped apple pies at Papa John's. Some 70% of consumers told Pizza Hut they want some sort of dessert after pizza and will go elsewhere if they don't get it, says Walsh.
The key for the chains is to make the desserts as shareable as the pizzas, says one pizza guru. It's oddly similar to the reason that hookah sales have jumped among Millennials — because they like to feel a part of social gatherings, says Steve Green, publisher of PMQ Pizza Magazine, a trade publication. ""You never get a pizza for yourself. Now, you take a chocolate chip cookie and make it communal — and you've got a party,"
In 2003, Pizza Hut began selling cinnamon sticks as desserts. In 2008, it added Hershey chocolate dunkers — chocolate-covered dipping sticks. What's next?
Executives are being coy. But Hershey also makes Reese's Pieces and Walsh didn't rule those out from showing up in future Pizza Hut desserts.
Perhaps the most critical question, with mega-sized cookies coming to Pizza Hut: Got milk?
"We have it in some locations now," says Walsh. "But we may have to go to 100%."