Papa John's fires back at magazine claim

The pizza chain says a recent article questioning its food was unnecessarily alarming to consumers.

By Jonathan Berr Aug 15, 2013 5:33PM
A Papa John's sign. Credit:
© Hyoung Chang / The Denver PostPapa John's (PZZA), which has bragged for years that the secret to its success was "better ingredients," is taking umbrage at a U.S. News & World Report claim that the company won't disclose what's in its food.

Journalist Melanie Warner said she asked the chain several times to disclose its ingredients, only to have her phone and email messages go unanswered.

In a statement to MSN moneyNOW, the Louisville, Ky., chain called Warner's article "misleading, absolutely false and unnecessarily alarming to consumers." Papa John's says it provides ingredient information about its ingredients to a standard within the norms of the quick-service restaurant industry and most fast-food restaurants.

"We take great pride and stand behind the quality ingredients that make up
our pizzas," the company says. "We do not hide nor have we ever tried to camouflage anything about our ingredients, the makeup of our products or our preparation

The statement goes on to note that Papa John's never freezes its dough or its vegetables. Papa John's sauce is packed within six hours of when the tomatoes were picked. Seasonings and spices are added to its pies, but never fillers.

In her article, Warner wrote that she asked an employee at her local Papa John's in Boulder, Colo., about its ingredients. He directed her to the company's website, which didn't have the information. Warner says her calls to the company were not returned.

"Unlike the packaged products you buy at the supermarket, restaurant food isn't required to list ingredients," she wrote. "Many fast food chains, like McDonald's (MCD), Taco Bell and Subway, do voluntarily provide them, in part for indemnity against lawsuits and in part because they realize some of their customers actually want to know what they're eating."

Papa John's "Better Ingredients, Better Pizza" slogan has been controversial for years. Pizza Hut, owned by Yum Brands (YUM), waged a losing legal battle against the claim that made it to the doorstep of the Supreme Court.

When informed of Papa John's response to her article, Warner said that the company's website offers an incomplete picture of the ingredients used. "I think people should be able to see what's in their food, much as they can do with every package at the supermarket, and then decide for themselves whether the ingredients are really 'better' and the food is worth eating," she said in an email to MSN moneyNOW.

--Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks.  Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

More on moneyNOW

Aug 15, 2013 6:25PM

Sounds like a "journalist" is just trying to make a name for herself by dissing a popular company.

Aug 15, 2013 5:57PM
I wonder if they asked Coke for their recipe if they would disclose that ?
Aug 15, 2013 8:55PM
You guys know this is a pizza right? If you really are worried about what you eat---make it yourself.
Aug 15, 2013 6:53PM
The arrogance of the press.  Tell us what we want to know or we will be forced to speculate, and you wouldn't want that! 
Aug 15, 2013 6:48PM
Papa Gino's on the east coast. Family owned for many, many years. Employees have health care and many other benefits. Thank you for great food, great service and caring for your employees ahead of the bottom line.
Aug 15, 2013 7:47PM
What Pizza secret ingredients?  It's dough, sauce, cheese and meat. Everyone who eats pizza knows this. There are no secrets. Even knowing that the idiots at U.S. News World Report are stupid is no secret! 
Aug 15, 2013 6:07PM

The owner is an idiot. gave away 2 million pizzas but than cries wolf when it comes to providing health care for his employees'. I wont buy pizza from Papa Johns...

Aug 15, 2013 6:45PM
We first tried Papa Johns when we moved - and it is horrible.  I would never order it again.  I have had better frozen pizzas.

Buy your pizza from a local shop if you want the best ingredients.  
Aug 15, 2013 6:26PM
It's sad that US News and World Report publishes articles like Warner's.  No wonder I stopped reading their drivel about 20 years ago.

As for Papa John's, I like their pizza and I'll continue to give them business.  And as far as I'm concerned, John Schnatter is a great example of an entrepreneur who started a small business, worked his butt off and made it a huge success.

Aug 15, 2013 6:26PM
This is a sour grapes article. Some things are trade secrets plus what is hard to figure out what goes in a pizza. Flour, Water, yeast, Tomatoes and if you cannon identify the toppings maybe you need to go back to school. Bet she has a connection to Pizza Hut somehow which is one of the worst pizzas I have ever eaten.
Aug 15, 2013 7:04PM
I also am boycotting Papa Johns, he has millions, rolling around in cash, yet he can not seem to afford to care for the people who made his money for him...I suppose he thinks he personally made each and every pizza served. Being a CEO is one thing, being human is something else and he is not human unless there is a profit.
Aug 15, 2013 7:27PM
I see my sentiments are expressed here many times.  I will not buy Papa John's pizza either because of his stupid comments about his stand on the health care issue.  He doesn't provide health insurance for his workers, but gives away millions of pizzas?  WTF ?  . There are many many good pizza chains and privately owned pizza places in this country, so we certainly wouldn't even miss his greedy a**.
Aug 15, 2013 6:36PM
Just another reason I will never buy from papa john's. Already boycotting them from the fiasco of the healthcare cry out when he says he was upping the price of pizza to help pay for the insurance. Which ok i'm cool with that but he was actually grossly trying to overcharge so he was using it as an excuse to just line their pockets. It was a political ruse to justify screwing over their own customers and even their employees when they made almost everyone part time.. The walmart of Pizzas!
Aug 15, 2013 7:23PM
I agree with Middle Class and also stopped buying from that anti-worker fraud/idiot. 
Aug 15, 2013 7:02PM
"We take great pride and stand behind the quality ingredients that make up
our pizzas," the company says. "We do not hide nor have we ever tried to camouflage anything about our ingredients, the makeup of our products or our preparation

Yet we won't tell you what they are.
Aug 15, 2013 7:20PM
This stuff is garbage....not unlike the greedy owner.
Aug 15, 2013 7:16PM
Papa John has clearly lost touch with his customer base.
Living on a 44 acre estate with it's own golf course and inviting Twitt Romney for dinner has shown that he is only in it for his own enrichment to the loss of his own employees.
A long term business plan succeeds when the management and employees are both enriched by the success of the business.
Republicans don't understand long term, or the good of the country, only the short term enrichment of the CEO.
Aug 15, 2013 7:06PM

Pizza Pizza 5$ all day long. Hot and ready!


Aug 15, 2013 6:46PM

I was born and raised in Louisville and I never really cared for his product.  Also I don't like what the corporate world has done to Colonel Sander's chicken.  For pizza I really miss Noble Roman's deep dish Sicilian pie that they baked in those dark metal pans just long enough to caramelize the outer part of the crust.  Something about that flavor haunts me to this day.  There have been a lot of great places that have disappeared to my great dismay.  Lum's beer steamed hot dogs, Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips, and of course Noble Roman's pizza are just a few that come to mind.  Another one that was pretty much local disappeared when its founder died of cancer and took his business concept and sauce recipe to the grave with him apparently and that was Bob Colglazier's Ranch House and their famous Ranch Burger.  Yummy.  I do miss that one too.


It is sad that very often corporatization ruins a basically sound concept not to mention the product itself.  The minute that the corporate whiz bangs start messing with the composition of the product to improve profitability supposedly they invariably make a mess of it.  Sometimes you are better off to just leave well enough alone but unfortunately this world runs on money so great food suffers in the name of cheap and fast.   

Aug 15, 2013 6:11PM
It's like Bush beans and their secret recipe. If you like baked beans compare B&M baked beans to Bush baked beans and you would say that Bush beans has nothing to hide.
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