Pineapple on pizza may be divisive, but a new poll finds most Canadians like it
Albertans are biggest fans of contentious Canadian invention; Quebecers not so much
The majority of Canadians dig some sweet fruit on their salty pies.
According to a new online poll by Vancouver-based Research Co., 73 per cent of Canadians say they would "definitely" or "probably" eat pineapple on pizza — up seven percentage points since the pollster asked the same question in July 2019.
"There is definitely momentum for Hawaiian-style pizza," Mario Canseco, president of Research Co., told As It Happens host Carol Off.
"But it's not the No. 1 choice. When we ask Canadians what they would put on a pizza that they could design, we still see pepperoni, we still see mushrooms, we still see green peppers ranking higher than ham and pineapple."
A Canadian invention
Pineapple on pizza is, oddly enough, a Canadian tradition.
Hawaiian pizza — usually characterized by a combination of pineapples, ham and bacon — is believed to have been invented by the late Sam Panopoulos, an Ontario restaurateur of Greek heritage, in the 1950s or '60s.
Panopoulos ran several restaurants across southern Ontario and thought people would enjoy the juxtaposition of sweet and salty.
"Nobody liked it at first," he told As It Happens in February 2017. "But after that, they went crazy about it."
Panopoulos died in June 2017 at the age of 82. But his legacy lives on in the form of the contentious Canadian fruit topping.
And contentious it is. People, especially on social media, have a tendency to either defend it with a passion or dismiss it as an abomination.
"What we were trying to find out ... is where is all this hatred coming from? I really wanted to figure out if this is real. Is this something that a lot of Canadians feel? Or are we listening to a tiny minority that is cornering social media?" Canseco said.
"When I posted the numbers online, the reaction was quite striking. For every person who said, 'This is great, and of course I'm in the majority,' you have people who thought the country is coming to an end and we should all brace ourselves."
Last year, Montreal's Bàcaro Pizzeria took pineapple pizza off the menu after its patrons voted it down in an online referendum.
Even the president of Iceland has weighed in on the debate. In 2017, Guðni Jóhannesson told a group of high school students that he was fundamentally opposed to pineapple on pizza and he would like to ban it. His remarks drew rebuke from Panopoulos himself.
Jóhannesson — who just happens to be married to a Canadian, Eliza Reid — later expressed his regret for the comment during a tongue-in-cheek interview with As It Happens for the show's 50th anniversary, admitting he "went a step too far."
Quebecers like it the least
As with most things in Canada, the poll found wide regional variation.
Albertans are the biggest fans of pineapple pizza, with 90 per cent of those polled saying they'd eat it, followed by those in British Columbia at 83 per cent, Saskatchewan and Manitoba tied at 71 per cent, Ontario at 76 per cent, Atlantic Canada at 72 per cent and Quebec at 55 per cent.
"You still have a majority of Quebec who say, 'OK, fine, if you only have that pizza, I will eat it." Canseco said. "But it's definitely lower than the rest of the country."
At first, Canseco said he figured it had something to do with Quebec's proud reputation as a province of "gourmands."
But he noted the same poll found Quebec ranked highest in Canada when it comes to willingness to eat steak with ketchup. "So it has to be something different, not just because they know what they're eating," he said.
So why is Hawaiian pizza trending upwards? Canseco has some theories.
"I think it's a combination of factors," he said. "A lot of people started to try takeout food or flipping the labour to their home because of the pandemic ... and that led them to try different things, different cuisines from all over the world, and also to experiment a little bit more with their pizza."
But Canseco, like anyone, has his biases.
"Growing up in Mexico, [pineapple on pizza] was one of the things that started to become a trend in the 1980s, and I always enjoyed it, even though I was surrounded by people who didn't want to try it," he said.
"They didn't know it was invented in Canada, and at the time I certainly didn't know I was going to end up here ... on As It Happens in Canada talking about Hawaiian pizza."
Research Co. says the poll results are based on an online study conducted from Oct. 4 to Oct. 6 among 1,000 adults in Canada. CBC cannot accurately calculate a margin of error for methodologies with online surveys. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Chris Harbord.