pizza_bodyGetting into the majors is tough, but staying there is even tougher. Professional baseball players have to continuously work on their skills to fend off competitors who’d like to have a starting spot on their team’s roster.

Frozen pizza manufacturers are no strangers to competition either. “Pizza seems to be expanding in many of the grocery chains that we’re currently in,” says Andrew Gamm, brand director for Pizza Patrón, a Dallas-based pizza restaurant chain that has 100 locations in seven states and recently ventured into the frozen pizza market. “Just in the last six months, we’ve seen the freezer sections expanding pizza options and allotting more shelf space to different varieties. It’s very, very competitive.”

Delivery and take-out pizza chains also have been aggressively pursuing consumers’ limited discretionary dollars. Last year, many of these companies began offering deep discounts and promotions to attract budget-conscious consumers choosing to eat at home more often and considering frozen pizza for mealtimes when they do, according to Chris Leising, brand director for Freschetta, a brand of Schwan’s Consumer Brands Inc. in Bloomington, Minn.

For frozen pizza manufacturers, staying in the game initially meant offering products that were fast and easy to prepare, budget-friendly and liked by all family members. Then, as consumers became more interested in healthy eating, pizza makers began introducing products with better-for-you ingredients. Now, pizza manufacturers are stepping up to the plate again to deliver products that are sure to appeal to consumers seeking sophisticated flavors.

Freschetta, for instance, launched two pizza lines in March that offer a variety of tantalizing flavors. Freschetta Simply…Inspired Pizza in an 11.5-in. size, comes in eight varieties: Hawaiian Style; Farmers Market Veggie; Harvest Supreme; Southern BBQ Recipe Chicken; Rustic Pepperoni Pomodoro; Classic Bruschetta; Tuscan Farmhouse; and Chicken Bianco. Freschetta By The Slice, a single slice cut from a whole pizza, comes in BBQ Chicken, Six Cheese Medley, Vegetable Medley and Chicken, Spinach and Mushroom.

“We are striving to elevate the frozen pizza category experience to address consumers’ desire for more variety and better-tasting pizzas,” says Leising. “All of the eight varieties were created with our signature sauces; big, colorful cuts of vegetables, like roasted red peppers, shiitake mushrooms and premium cheeses, like gouda—all on a crispy, thin crust.”

Freschetta By The Slice was developed to address growing consumer interest in “a quality slice of pizza that can be enjoyed at lunch or as a snack,” according to Leising. Made with premium ingredients, each single-serve slice cooks in the microwave in minutes.

Both products are available in supermarkets nationwide at suggested retail prices of $6.79 and $1.99, respectively.

Basil Pesto Pizza joined Kashi Co.’s line of all-natural thin crust frozen pizzas in March. The product features a basil pesto sauce, Roma tomatoes, caramelized onions and mozzarella and feta cheese on a stone-fired, thin-and-crispy crust made with Kashi’s signature Seven Whole Grains and Sesame blend.

According to the La Jolla, Calif.-based company, the 12.45-oz. pizza provides busy consumers with a convenient, wholesome meal option. It’s available at supermarkets and natural food retailers nationwide for a suggested retail price of $5.99. Other varieties include Caribbean Carnival, Margherita, Mediterranean, Mexicali Black Bean, Roasted Vegetable, and Mushroom Trio and Spinach.

Gluten-free and allergy-free
Even consumers with food allergies can enjoy a slice or two of tasty pizza, thanks to Solterra Foods’ gluten- and soy-free Margherita Cheese Pizza and gluten-, soy-, dairy- and casein-free Vegan Cheese Pizza. However, anyone interested in adding foods made with all-natural ingredients to their diet will appreciate these products, too.

According to Elaine Valenza, chief executive officer of the Fort Collins, Colo.-based Solterra, the thin-crust pizzas were developed for a family member with wheat allergies. “We couldn’t find a pizza for my son that we absolutely loved, so we made one,” she says, explaining that all of her company’s products got their start in her home kitchen before being moved into a test kitchen and then into production.

To avoid cross-contamination, the pizzas are designed to be baked in the 100%-biodegradable, vegetable-fiber bag in which they’re packaged. A clear window in the package, made of vegetable cellulos, enables consumers to see when the cheese has melted.

Both 8-oz. pizzas sell for $4.99-$6.49, depending on the retailer. Currently, they can be found at Whole Foods Markets in the Rocky Mountain region, Kings Super Markets on the East Coast, healthfood stores, independent retail stores and

Since October 2010, pizza lovers in Texas have been able to enjoy Pizza Patrón pizza without a Pizza Patrón’s carry-out pizza restaurant. Last year, the company developed a line of frozen pizzas to sell in grocery stores and chain stores.

“It was an easy decision for us because [the pizza market] is so competitive,” says Gamm. “Being kind of a startup pizza chain, anything we can do to increase brand awareness in markets where we have stores and develop market awareness where we don’t have carryout pizzas stores is going to benefit us. So from a brand-building perspective, it makes perfect sense for us.”

Currently, consumers can buy a 28.5-oz. Cheese, Pepperoni and Meat Trio (pepperoni, ham and Italian sausage) Pizza Patrón pizza for about $4.99 each at various supermarket and general market store chains throughout Texas. By the end of this year, the company plans to be in multiple markets outside of Texas.
Joining the company’s existing pizza lineup will be three varieties that “are specialty pizzas that we feature inside our stores that have more of a Latino recipe profile,” says Gamm. Hawaiana contains extra pineapple, ham and cheese; Mexicana is topped with chorizo, bell peppers and jalapeños; and Patrona has four kinds of meat, black olives, bell peppers and mushrooms.

As take-out and delivery pizza restaurants continue to court budget-conscious consumers with discounts and promotions, frozen pizza manufacturers know they can’t compete with these rivals on price alone. Their winning strategy? Offering consumers flavorful, quality products that go from the oven to the table in minutes.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about these and other frozen pizza items go to and check out our online new products section.