Minute on the clock: Louise Pilkington, innovation director, Domino's Pizza Group

08 March 2023 by
Minute on the clock: Louise Pilkington, innovation director, Domino's Pizza Group

The innovation director at Domino's Pizza Group loves translating trends into tastes when devising new pizza creations. She talks to Caroline Baldwin

Tell me a bit about your background and how you got to become innovation director at Domino's

I started out in marketing, at P&G then Diageo. I'm obsessed with food – I love to cook and no one leaves my table hungry – so I left marketing to lead innovation for Costa and later Compass. However, I've always loved pizza, so I jumped at the chance to take on the innovation role.

Where do you get your flavour inspiration from?

I've been reading The Edible Atlas: Around the World in Thirty-Nine Cuisines by Mina Holland, which is about the link between the cultural history of different countries and their food. I love discovering new flavours and thinking about how we can let more people discover and enjoy them. Our latest pizza, the Ultimate Spicy Sausage, combines nduja and salami for an authentic Italian flavour.

What is the creative process behind launching a new item on the menu?

Our team never stops hunting for new trends and inspiration. We look at consumer lifestyle trends and seasonality to identify the biggest opportunities at the best time of year. Once we have a range of ideas, we gather consumer insight and feedback to ensure we're developing something that will be a big hit with fans and bring in new customers.

How often do you launch new menu items? Is it important to keep customers loyal?

It's about getting the right product for the right consumer at the right time. Last year we took advantage of two exceptional events, with the World Cup and Christmas both in our final campaign. We launched the Ultimate Spicy Sausage & Nduja wedges for footie crowds, and the Festive One for those celebrating together. We wouldn't normally launch two pizzas in one campaign, but it's important to give our customers as many reasons as possible to choose us when they have a crowd to please. We first launched the Festive One [a pizza with turkey breast marinated in sage and onion, Cumberland sausage and bacon] in 2021 and it was a huge success with really strong sales and a lot of love from customers. They provided feedback that cranberry would make it even better, so for 2022 we added cranberry drizzle.

Do you have to remove items from the menu to make room for the new products? And what is the one product that will never come off the menu?

We have a great range of core pizzas, which are always on, and limited-time pizzas which come off at the end of campaigns to make space for the next big idea. These limited-time pizzas bring excitement to the menu for regulars and also bring new customers in. With non-seasonal hits we keep them on the menu or bring them back. Our Cheeseburger pizza was originally a limited edition and has now been on the menu for four years. We're a franchise business and allow our partners flexibility to choose the right pizzas for their customers. But personally, I'd have to say the Pepperoni Passion would never come off – it's always been a top seller.

How are you feeling business-wise as the cost of living crisis deepens? Is this an opportunity or a threat for Domino's?

We know people are stretched and we want our customers to know we're here for them, which is why we offer a great set of deals to drive value. We're working hard to ensure we stay affordable and exciting for customers looking for a treat, whether through new deals or new products.

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