/The Margin: This state has the most expensive pizza in the country — almost $27 for a plain cheese pie

The Margin: This state has the most expensive pizza in the country — almost $27 for a plain cheese pie

When it comes to the price of pizza, Oregon is the state that busts the most wallets.

A new study from Slice, the pizza-delivery app and technology platform, found that Oregon had the priciest pizza in the country, with the cost of a large cheese pie averaging $26.94 last year. That’s more than twice the price of a pizza in the state where it’s cheapest — Oklahoma, where a large cheese pie ran $12.70.

The release of the Slice study is timed to coincide with National Pizza Day on Feb. 9. The study looked at data from 2022 among the nearly 19,000 independent pizza shops that are part of the Slice network.

Other pricey pizza states in Slice’s analysis of the 2022 data: Washington ($23.34 for a large cheese pie), Illinois ($22.52), Alaska ($21.74), Colorado ($21.23) and California ($21.19).

And the states joining Oklahoma at the lower end of the price spectrum: Minnesota ($13.88), Alabama ($14.80), Kansas ($14.96), North Dakota ($15.35) and Mississippi ($15.50).

Why are some states pricier for pizza than others? Obviously, economies vary from state to state — and that affects the cost of a variety of goods. But the situation with pizza involves certain particulars, says Slice founder and chief Ilir Sela.

He noted that competition is a decisive factor. That is, states with fewer pizzerias per capita often have higher prices as there’s less reason for operators to worry about losing customers to another pizzeria. In turn, that leaves them freer to charge more.

That may explain why New York doesn’t rank among the top five in pizza pricing — a large cheese pie averaged $19.73 in 2022, according to Slice. While the state has one of the highest costs of living, it’s also a pizza-centric state in which there are plenty of options.

Hence, the near-$20 New York statewide average. “Most places won’t be in business if they charge more than that,” said Sela of the state’s competitive scene. (To be clear, pizza prices in New York City are often higher than $20.)

It’s not just about the competitive factor, Sela added. It’s also about the type of pizza that’s being served. In general, West Coast states — and, in particular, Oregon — place a heavy emphasis on what Sela categorizes as artisanal pizza.

What qualifies: pizzas topped with high-end ingredients or just made to a higher, even gourmet, standard. Sela said they dominate the Oregon scene, especially in Portland. And artisanal pizza naturally costs more.

Either way, pizza is getting more expensive nationwide — a sign of these inflationary times. The average cost of a large cheese pie from an independent pizzeria was $17.81 in 2022 — an increase of 6.4% over the average price, $16.74, in 2021, according to Slice.

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As budget-challenging as that may seem for pizza lovers, it’s actually not such horrendous news, given that food prices increased by 9.9% in 2022, according to government data.

Scott Wiener, a pizza expert who heads up Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City, said that pizzeria operators are hesitant to raise prices too much because “customers perceive pizza as a value item.” Plus, pizza lovers always tend to order the same thing, so any price increase is quickly noticed, Wiener said.

The Slice study looked at a number of other trends shaping the pizza industry. For example, when it comes to toppings, ranch dressing appears to be the “it” item — the past year saw a 9.7% increase of orders with the topping traditionally associated with salad. The study also noted that pickles are poised to become a popular topping in 2023, particularly in a briny pie baked with garlic sauce.

And when it comes to the names of pizzerias, there’s one that stands above the rest: Tony’s Pizzeria is the most popular, followed closely by Joe’s Pizza, according to Slice.

Sela said there’s one name he thought would place higher in the top ranking. “I’m surprised Gino’s is not on the list,” he said.

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