Healthier options, zesty flavors and home-delivery quality are a few of the things today’s consumers want from their frozen pizzas. Manufacturers are finding ways to provide these must-haves with more natural products and special ingredients.

When it comes to frozen pizza, consumers want something more than just the usual pepperoni and mushrooms. They’re interested in exciting flavor combinations, organic ingredients and overall better-for-you options. And they want frozen pizza to rival delivery options.

“People want healthier options,” states Gina Bolger, director of marketing for Home Run Inn Pizza. “They want to know where the ingredients in the foods they are eating are coming from. The all-natural category is doing well, and we want consumers to know that we have been all-natural since day one.”

The Chicago-based company carries four different kinds of frozen pizzas: Ultra Thin; Classic’ Signature; and now Ultra Thick, introduced in fall 2012. “This variety gives consumers more of their favorite part of Home Run Inn Pizza–our buttery crust,” states Bolger.

The Ultra Thick line comes in Cheese, Pepperoni, Sausage and Sausage and Pepperoni options. Some may think that Home Run Inn has some stiff competition when it comes to offering a thick pizza in its hometown of Chicago, which is renowned for its deep-dish pizza, but Bolger insists that the company brings something extra to the table. “We want frozen pizza consumers to see that our frozen pizza can absolutely compete with restaurant or delivery pizza when made with premium, quality ingredients,” she says. “We would put Home Run Inn frozen pizzas up against any restaurant or delivery pizza–the quality will be the same or better.”

Dieters can also enjoy Home Run Inn pizza as the company offers a personal-size pizza with 290 calories or less. “This is great for those watching what they eat and calorie counting,” Bolger says.

Customers can choose either the Ultra Thin or Classic varieties in the personal-pizza size. Ultra Thin comes in Cheese, Cheese Supreme, Margherita, Sausage and Sausage Pepperoni, while the Classic options are Cheese, Sausage, Pepperoni and Sausage Pepperoni.

Capitalizing on clean label

Another company offering healthier, more natural pizzas is Ever Better Eating Inc. of Pittsfield, N.H.

“Consumers are looking for better quality and food that’s made with a clean label,” says Brad Sterl, president and CEO. “We are maintaining our current process with premium handmade products with all-natural and organic ingredients.”

The company recently introduced three new frozen pizzas to its American Flatbread line. Made with a 100%, organically-grown wheat crust, the new options include Farmers Tomato Pie, made with tomatoes, garlic, onion, basil, balsamic vinegar, red wine and maple syrup; Sliced Tomato and 5 Cheeses; and Twisted 6 Cheese pizzas. The new pizzas complement the line’s already existing offerings of Cheese and Herb Revolution, Sun-Dried Tomato and Mushroom, Tomato Sauce and Three Cheese, Vegan Harvest and Ionian Awakening, which contains Kalamata olives, four cheeses, red onions, garlic and rosemary.

Even Better Eating is also exploring new crusts under its Rustic Crust line. The company recently introduced its Rustic Crust Ciabatta Flatbread, made with natural ingredients and no artificial colors, preservatives or flavors. Rustic Crust offers nine options in its ready-made pizza crusts: Cheesy Herb, Italian Herb, Tuscan Six Grain, Classic Sourdough, Ultimate Whole Grain, Organic Great Grains, Organic Pizza Originale, Gluten Free Napoli Herb and Crispy Thin Crust.

Flavor wheel

While some companies are creating healthier pizzas, others are creating pizzas with unique toppings and new flavors. Palermo’s Pizza, Milwaukee, recently added some new options to its already robust line of Primo Thin pizzas. California Recipe Chicken and Mediterranean Vegetable join Garden, Fajita, Margherita, Cheese Lovers, Special Edition Pepperoni, Greek, Supreme, Italian Sausage, Grilled Chicken Caesar, Ham and Pineapple, Spinach, Bacon and Feta and Sicilian options.

Palermo’s is also venturing into the flatbread market, recently introducing Fresh Mozzerella and Pesto, Italian Sausage with Mushroom and Fire-Roasted Onions, and Creamy Spinach and Goat Cheese flatbread options.

“The unique size and shape of flatbreads along with the wide variety of upscale flavors make these products ideal for serving [a mature American] demographic,” says Giacomo Fallucca, CEO.

Long-standing, more traditional brands are also noticing consumer demand for innovation in the frozen pizza market.

“When it comes to pizza, crust and toppings drive consumer choice,” states Tom Dixon, vice president of Schwan’s Consumer Brands, Bloomington, Minn. “Schwan’s Consumer Brands builds its product offerings around the classic flavors and finds ways to do them in new and interesting ways.”

For example, the company’s Red Baron line re-launched its Mexican Style pizza in the Classic Crust offering. “We had previously let it go to fit other innovations on the shelf,” says Dixon. “Over time, we realized this was a mistake and are returning this SKU to the category.”

Other options in the Red Baron Classic Crust line include Pepperoni, 4-Cheese, Special Deluxe, Sausage and Pepperoni, Supreme, 4-Meat, Sausage, Hamburger and Hawaiian Style.

Schwan’s is also spicing up its Freschetta brand of pizzas by experimenting with new ingredients in its Brick Oven and Naturally-Rising Crust lines.

“We recently launched Freschetta Brick Oven Chicken Club, which offers a crust that is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, as well as white meat chicken, bacon, tomatoes and spinach toppings,” states Dixon. “It’s really different and delicious.”

Other Brick Oven Pizzas include Three Meat Medley, 5 Italian Cheese, Pepperoni and Italian Style Cheese, Zesty Italian Style Supreme and Roasted Portabella Mushrooms and Spinach.

“For our Freschetta Naturally Rising Crust lineup, we added a Sausage/Pepperoni pizza as well as a Margherita pizza, which provides a twist on the familiar cheese pizza,” Dixon notes.

Other options include Classic Supreme, Canadian Style Bacon and Pineapple, Meat Medley, Signature Pepperoni and 4-Cheese Medley.

Schwan’s is also dabbling in the pizza crust market with its Villa Prima Starter Crusts. “We provide three different sizes of pizza crusts and a flatbread as ‘starter crusts’ from which foodservice operators can customize and create a variety of menu options,” says Carol Willenbring, senior director of marketing, insights and communication.

The pizza crust sizes include 2.5-in. Minis, 4-in. Fluted and 5-in. Deep Dish.

Naan’s the word

Sometimes the best place to find an innovative pizza is to look within the ethnic foods segment. Tandoor Chef, Union N.J., offers a line of Naan Pizzas that cater to those interested in exploring Indian cuisine in a familiar food product.

“The Naan pizza explosion, which we ignited nearly four years ago, can be an authentic flavor diversion for the Indian population as well as traditional consumers,” says Mike Ryan, vice president of marketing and sales. “New ethnic flavors offer more than a popular mealtime together for families; they also bring a newfound appreciation of differing cultures for parents and children alike.”

Tandoor Chef offers Naan Pizzas in Roasted Eggplant, Margherita, Cilantro Pesto, and Spinach and Paneer options. More recently, it added a Jalapeno selection to this line.

“This product brings a flavor profile of the Indian culture and meets the growing demand for ethnic foods,” adds Ryan. “The Jalapeno Naan Pizza combines the rich flavors of buffalo milk mozzarella and jalapenos to create a new twist on this favorite.”

All of Tandoor Chef’s Naan Pizzas are vegetarian and have between 210 and 290 calories per serving.

Natural ingredients and unique flavor combinations continue to be the emerging trends in frozen pizzas and flatbreads. So the next time you’re not sure what flavor of pizza to add to your store’s frozen pizza offerings, take a deeper look and give some of these manufacturers’ new flavor combinations a try.