McCain has a clever new marketing campaign for their line of frozen pizzas. In the television spot, we see two steaming hot pizzas. A person stars running a pizza cutter through one of them as we hear the ingredients. The narrator quickly comes to some unpronounceable substances and the arm holding the pizza cutter starts to hesitate. The narrator tells us that perhaps we should try a McCain pizza instead. The arm moves to the other pizza and happily cuts as we hear that the ingredients are vine ripened tomatoes, and other things that we recognize as not coming from a lab. It’s a good ad. Not fabulous, but good.

So I decided to try one for myself. From the packaging, here are the four ingredients, with their constituents:

  • Crust: enriched wheat flour, water, soy oil, yeast, sugar, salt, dehydrated rye sourdough, whole milk powder, soy lecithin.
  • Sauce: water, tomato paste, soy oil, sugar, salt, parmesan cheese (milk, modified milk ingredients, bacterial culture, salt, calcium chloride, microbial enzyme, lipase, cellulose), spice, dehydrated garlic, corn starch, onion powder, natural colour.
  • Cheese: mozzarella (milk, modified milk ingredients, bacterial culture, salt, calcium chloride, microbial enzymes), corn starch.
  • Toppings: pepperoni [pork and/or beef, seasonings (spices, sugar, celery powder, garlic powder), water, salt, bacterial culture, natural flavour].

The most ‘chemical-sounding’ ingredient is calcium chloride and that’s hardly unrecognizable. Nice job, McCain!

And the pizza was good. My biggest surprise was that it wasn’t terribly different from any other. If companies can make a comparable product without an ingredients list that you can’t read, why don’t they? It’s probably more expensive this way. It may be easier, cheaper, and have less chance of problems while shipping, but I’ll take the pizza that doesn’t sound like it was made by Dow Chemical.

That’s not to say that it’s better for you, however. The particular pizza I bought (pictured above) still has a ridiculous amount of sodium, for example. And the ads never say that the lack of more esoteric ingredients makes the pizza better for you. People will draw that conclusion on their own, whether it’s right or wrong.