When it comes to pizza, everyone is concerned about the top — the sauce, cheese and toppings make the difference between a quality slice and a garbage pizza. Popular consumer trends and adventurous pizza makers have broadened the category to the point that pizza fanatics can find everything from the traditional cheese and sausage to a Korean BBQ pizza.

Pizza, dough, on the other hand, doesn’t come with many options. Aside from regular and whole-grain, there hadn’t been much thought about the bottom of the pizza. The Real Good Food Co. LLC, however, has developed a pizza crust that stands alone in the pizza market. Instead of using dough, the company is making its pizzas with a crust made of parmesan chicken.

The company’s grain-free, gluten-free pizza has just 4g of carbs and 25g of protein per serving. While it certainly plays into the current consumer dietary trends, Bryan Freeman, CEO of RGF, says that the company is more interested in solving consumer needs than it is following current trends.

“Consumers know sugar and carbohydrates are bad for them. They also know protein is good. We call this clean eating,” he says. “We are also aware of the growing diabetic epidemic and our items give those fighting this disease a delicious solution.”

The company’s motto is, “Real Food You Feel Good About Eating.” The chicken-crust pizza achieves those goals in several ways. Since it is relatively free of carbs, consumers won’t feel bloated and tired after eating the pizza. Other gluten-free pizzas use rice and tapioca instead of wheat flour, which still contains carbs that are converted to sugars. Using chicken is a much simpler approach that also results in a simpler end product.

The decision to replace the bread dough with a protein alternative came during the considerable trial and error of new product development.

“RGF learned quickly that fiber-based solutions with added protein isolates did not deliver on RGF’s promise to be delicious and be Real Food,” Freeman says. “We think adding protein isolates or sugar alcohols to food is not the best way to deliver macros consumers want. Why not keep it simple and use ingredients that consumers have in their refrigerators today?”

RGF uses hand-trimmed, jumbo chicken breast that is antibiotic- and preservative-free. The pizzas are available in 5-inch and 7-inch varieties. Along with Three Cheese, Pepperoni, and Supreme (sausage, pepperoni and veggies) varieties, there is a Breakfast Pizza with bacon, pepperoni and sausage.

When it came to introducing the product to the public, RGF relied on its large online fanbase to help spread the word. The company has more than 250,000 fans on Instagram and Facebook and will do its own IHUTs (In-Home Usage Tests) with them prior to a product release.

“If you look at the comments in IG and FB and YouTube, and see how well received the items are, it is all due to the fact that we leveraged our community to tell us what is loved and what is not prior to commercialization,” Freeman states. “To me, it is far more effective to design product based on consumers who know and care about you rather than using focus groups or polling or IHUTs with consumers that meet a predetermined target demographic.”

In the case of a product like the chicken-crust pizza, which is unique to the pizza market, the company whipped up enthusiasm for its fanbase and began selling directly to consumers before it approached the retail marketplace. It reached out to specialty stores first, where shoppers would be predisposed to such an innovative product. When it eventually went to the mainstream retail market, the pizzas already had a loyal following. The pizzas are now available in more than 5,000 stores nationwide.

“Had we launched in retail first, it would have been very scary — probably suicidal,” Freeman comments.

Now that its products are available nationwide, RGF is still relying on that community to push growth even more.

“With this large community, we are able to let people know where our items are available and they respond. In fact, we receive more than 10K clicks per day on our Store Locator page on our website. Once we list a store where we are available in, people go and purchase,” he says.