Preston-based Orchard Ovens believes that last year saw a massive increase in popularity of wood fired pizza ovens.

As it exclusively supplies the Italian brand Valoriani to the UK market, it has reported higher demand than ever for these real wood ‘fornos’.

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The commercial market has been the biggest boom for Orchard, as restaurant owners recognise that pizza is as popular as ever, with around 45% of customers regularly eating pizza and pasta at Italian restaurants.

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Post-recession, these eateries are starting to reinvest in their facilities and respond to trends in the dining-out sector, but have also caught on to the fact that 18-34 year old customers, who have grown up with foreign holidays and cookery programmes on TV as part of daily life, now have more sophisticated palates and expectations of what a good pizza should taste like.

Furthermore, on the domestic side, the company has seen its new baby oven, ‘The Fornino’, flying out of the warehouse as soon as shipments have arrived.

Backing up these sales figures, Orchard commissioned YouGov research, which found that 27% of British adults now prefer wood-fired to barbecued food, if at a garden party.

Back in the commercial sector, one of the supplier’s customers, who spent around £25,000 on its oven installation, is said to have recovered the cost in 80 days, both in terms of pizza sales and an increase in bottled lager sales.

Orchard’s founder, Andrew Manciocchi commented: “We are seeing restaurants recognising that they can make what they saw as a long-term investment in a pizza oven, but recoup the cost far quicker than they had imagined, thanks to the new grab-and-go, pizza by the slice, pizza sharing and gourmet pizza trends that have emerged in the market.”