It’s easy to pop a frozen pizza into the oven for a quick dinner, and consumers know it—the frozen pizza category is on the rise, no pun intended, from 2022.

Market data

According to Circana (Chicago) data from the past 52 weeks, which ended on March 26, 2023, the frozen pizza category increased by 10.7% from the past year, with total sales of $6.825 billion.

Frozen pizzas themselves brought in $6.774 billion of the $6.825, whereas frozen pizza crusts/dough accounted for $44 million, and frozen pizza kits/toppings brought in $6.4 million.

Looking back

“Inflation is a challenging issue across just about every aspect of life right now. Consumers are looking for opportunities to save money when they can and are more intentional about how their money is spent,” says Roger Galloway, senior director of brand marketing for pizza, Schwan’s Consumer Brands, Bloomington, MN.

“Knowing a majority of American consumers purchase pizza—be it at a restaurant, pizzeria, or retailer — we have seen two big trends in the pizza category over this past year,” he shares. They include:

  • Substituting for premium, less-expensive alternatives. “Consumers are trading out of restaurant pizza and into premium frozen pizza. These people can still get a great pizza, but at a fraction of the price by switching over. A person’s favorite pizzeria might charge $20-30 for a pizza, while even the most premium pizzas in the frozen pizza category are substantially less expensive,” Galloway notes.
  • Growth in value pizza. As people look to reduce their grocery expenses, more are looking for family favorites on a budget. Consumers can purchase a Red Baron pizza for under $5 and a Tony’s pizza for under $4. These options present affordable and delicious pizza that the entire family can enjoy, Galloway says.

In August 2020, Schwan’s announced plans to build a new 400,000-square-foot expansion at its pizza-manufacturing facility in Salina, KS, making it the largest frozen-pizza production facility in the world, says Galloway.

“This spring, we are scheduled to complete the project, and production lines will officially be producing saleable pizzas. This expansion in Salina will help ensure that we can achieve our growth plans and continue to provide pizzas to millions of families for decades to come. The new state-of-the-art pizza production line and equipment are capable of making more than 100 million pizzas per year,” he notes.

Schwan’s also added direct-to-consumer (DTC) capabilities for its Freschetta Gluten-Free Pizzas and new Hearth & Fire Pizzas.

“For DTC, it is about meeting the consumer where they are. Many consumers live in areas where certain products are not available to them. We’ve heard appreciation from the Celiac community, as they can often have trouble finding gluten-free foods—especially as it relates to those in more rural areas. With our DTC capabilities we are able to ship our pizzas anywhere in the lower 48 states,” Galloway explains.

In August 2022, the company launched its craft-quality Hearth & Fire pizzas at select retailers as well as in a DTC format.

“We realized a barrier for many consumers when it comes to frozen pizza is that they do not feel like the quality or taste is up to par with their favorite craft pizzeria. As a result, we launched Hearth & Fire pizza aiming to meet the high standards set by ‘real food fans’ who yearn for real ingredients but haven’t yet found a pizza in the category that delivers on their criteria for truly premium quality and taste,” shares Galloway.

What makes Hearth & Fire pizza unique compared to others in the market is that Schwan’s starts with a minimum, 20-hour fermentation process that adds flavor and texture to the crust, then treats the crust to an open fire that burns at more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The four varieties include The Margherita, The Pepperoni, The Bianca, and The Mushroom.

Grilled Chicken & Garlic Cauliflower Pizza
Courtesy of Milton's Craft Bakers

“It is a similar style to a traditional pizza oven. Finally, we took an innovative vacuum-sealed approach to its packaging to ensure the craft quality is preserved,” Galloway finishes.

John Reaves, CEO, Milton’s Craft Bakers, Carlsbad, CA, says that he is seeing a growing premiumization of the frozen pizza category, which gives retailers an opportunity to bring in higher-quality frozen pizzas that deliver an authentic artisanal pizzeria experience at a fraction of the cost.

“As consumers face economic pressure from inflation, combined with nostalgic food items making a comeback, the frozen pizza category is in a unique position to provide shoppers with a convenient meal solution that offers great value while satisfying the desire to indulge in something delicious. However, as consumers become more discerning, many are looking for more than just great taste—they want a better-for-you version of their favorite food made with high-quality ingredients,” Reaves notes.

In March, Milton’s launched its Grilled Chicken & Garlic Cauliflower Crust Pizza.

“With its zesty red pepper sauce, the Grilled Chicken & Garlic Pizza is truly differentiated in the category and meets the increasing consumer demand for products with a bit of spice. The frozen pizza category will always be anchored by the red and white sauce classics, but we wanted to introduce a gluten-free pizza that not only gives consumers a unique, savory sauce with a hint of heat, but also provides a clean, high-quality protein with the addition of grilled chicken,” says Reaves.

Gail Becker, CEO and founder, CAULIPOWER, Los Angeles, CA, says that CAULIPOWER has certainly gotten bigger, and is continuing to focus on profitable growth and launching into new categories.

Cauliflower Pizza
Courtesy of CAULIPOWER

“We have been working on a number of new innovations at CAULIPOWER, which we are thrilled to be able to launch later this year,” she shares. “We have been working on these new innovations for some time and are excited to disrupt growing categories that are ripe for innovation where we have not played before. Consumers and retailers have been asking, and as everyone will soon see, we’ve been listening!”

Looking forward

Becker says that people are identifying more and more as “flexitarians” or “reducetarians.”

“Food choices and lifestyles are no longer ‘one size fits all.’ In 2023, we’ll see more people making balanced, healthier choices that feel right for their own personal lifestyle—with a priority on taste. During the height of COVID, consumers made a mad dash to comfort foods and in the following years, began to prioritize health and nutrition. Today, people want and deserve both,” she shares.

“There will be more focus on eliminating food waste and making each meal go a bit further. In 2023, we’ll see consumers getting creative with leftovers or seeking more frozen options. [Also] DIY-inspired meals that come from real people, in real kitchens discoverable on social media. We expect to see more people cooking at home and sharing their Meal Hacks globally thanks to viral TikToks and Reels. CAULIPOWER was inspired by cauliflower crust recipes on Pinterest, so we’re always listening to our community for new ideas,” Becker adds.

Galloway says that this summer, Schwan’s is in the process of launching a new Red Baron Fully Loaded line-up of pizzas.

“We believe this new product will excite consumers as it delivers a new format of pizza often sought in restaurants, but not widely accessible in freezer aisles. We’ll be sure to share more information later this summer,” he promises.

Reaves says that Milton’s is very pleased with the early success of its Meat Lover’s Trio and Grilled Chicken & Garlic Pizzas with one of its key customers, which makes the company more excited about the introduction of three new varieties of our cauliflower crust pizza to the market later this year.

“We also have unique, better-for-you frozen food innovations planned for the back half of 2023, and while we can’t share details quite yet, I can say that the products will deliver on our commitment to providing remarkable products of extraordinary taste and quality,” he predicts.