Our 2013 State of the Industry report explores market information for the bread aisle, sweet goods, cookies, bars, snack cakes, frozen baked goods, tortillas, pies and more.
Despite competition from a variety of sources, frozen pizza manufacturers see themselves giving rivals a run for consumers’ money.
When Formula One or NASCAR enthusiasts buy a ticket to their favorite race, they know they’ll get their money’s worth of excitement and entertainment. When pizza lovers buy a pie from their favorite Italian restaurant, pizza chain restaurant or supermarket, they typically expect to get more than their money’s worth in convenience, flavor and eating satisfaction.
And why not? Many full-service restaurants have family-night pizza specials, while the chains—Pizza Hut, Dominos Pizza, Papa John’s Pizza and the others—also routinely have deals for their products. Little Caesars Pizza currently sells some of its large Hot-N-Ready pizzas every day for as little as $5 each.
So how are today’s frozen pizza manufacturers managing to hold their own in this very competitive race? By staying on top of consumer demand for interesting flavors, value and quality ingredients…and by exceeding customers’ expectations.
The flavor fast-track
“When it comes to pizza, crust and toppings drive consumer choice,” says Tom Dixon, vice president of brand marketing, Schwan’s Consumer Brands Inc., Bloomington, Minn., which owns the Freschetta, Red Baron and Tony’s brands. “We’ve learned that household purchasers choose their own preferred crusts and then pair them with the toppings that their family loves. Schwan’s Consumer Brands builds its product offering around the classic flavors and finds ways to do them in a new and interesting ways. A great example is the return of our Mexican-style Red Baron pizza, which launched this spring.”
The new entry joins two other new Red Baron flavors: Classic Crust Fire Baked Spicy Pepperoni; and Classic Crust Hawaiian Style. All three were launched in April and have a suggested retail price of $4.50.
The company also introduced three Freschetta brand pizzas in February: Freschetta Brick Oven Chicken Club Pizza, Freschetta Naturally Rising Margherita Pizza and Freschetta Naturally Rising Sausage and Pepperoni Pizza. All sell for around $6.69.
“While the frozen pizza category has faced some headwinds and the economy continues to be challenging, we’re excited to see signs of significant improvement in Schwan’s Consumer Brands’ pizza business,” says Dixon. “We are seeing that growth is very achievable as we continue to focus on delivering great quality and value to consumers.”
Recent company data shows that specific Schwan brands are gaining momentum. “Red Baron multiserve continues to grow and is driving the category,” Dixon says. “[Meanwhile], Freschetta is starting to turn again on shelves. With new packaging and advertising, its velocities are growing 63% versus last year.
Carina Sarbaugh, associate marketing manager for Totino’s Pizza at General Mills Inc., Minneapolis, says she’s also seeing demand for unique flavors in the frozen pizza category. “This past [spring], we introduced four new products under the Totino’s brand,” she says. “We also reintroduced a flavor that had been in the marketplace previously, but was discontinued. People were requesting it on social media.”
Available for six months, Totino’s Limited Edition Mexican Style Party Pizza has a crispy crust, uniquely spiced sauce and Mexican-inspired toppings. It comes in the company’s Party Pizza size, which serves approximately two people. “People are really excited about it,” Sarbaugh adds.
Another major player in the frozen pizza category and a Nestle brand, DiGiorno Pizza of Northbrook, Ill., introduced a line of frozen pizzas called pizzeria! from DIGIORNO in March. The products have a preservative-free, pizzeria-style crust that’s drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, topped with a flavorful sauce made with vine-ripened tomatoes, garlic and herbs and finished off with premium-quality meats, cheeses and vegetables. They contain no artificial flavors and come in four flavors: Quattro Formaggi (Four Cheeses), Supreme Speciale, Primo Pepperoni and Italian Meat Trio. All have retail for about $6.49.
La Jolla, Calif.-based Kashi, meanwhile, introduced Kashi BBQ Recipe Chicken Pizza. The company’s newest option combines white meat chicken, caramelized onions, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, cilantro and cherrywood smoke-flavored barbecue sauce. The crust is made with Kashi 7 Whole Grains & Sesame with flax seed and wood-fired to bring out its natural flavors. Its suggested retail price is $5.99.
Tandoor Chef, Union, N.J., introduced a Jalapeno Naan Pizza earlier this year. “This product brings a flavor profile of the Indian culture and meets the growing demand for ethnic foods,” says Mike Ryan, vice president of marketing and sales. “The Jalapeno Naan Pizza combines the rich flavors of buffalo milk mozzarella and jalapenos to create a new twist on this favorite. A new, all?natural, vegetarian option, like all of our Naan Pizzas, it’s fired in a clay Tandoor oven at 1,000 deg. F to create a unique appeal.” It joins the company’s other four varieties: Roasted Eggplant Naan Pizza, Margherita Nann Pizza, Cilantro Basil Naan Pizza and Spinach and Paneer Cheese Naan Pizza.
“We’ve worked hard to introduce America to traditional Indian spices and flavors,” says Ryan. “By introducing our own line of Naan Pizzas three years ago, we brought a familiar item into America’s homes and, in doing so, introduced Indian flavors. America knows and loves pizza. We simply gave it an ethnic twist, knowing that consumers were more likely to branch out and try new cuisine if it was fused with a food choice that they already loved.”
Little Lady Foods, a frozen foods bakery in Elk Grove Village, Ill., that makes custom premium and private-label frozen pizzas, hand-held sandwiches and specialty items, added a line of Thin & Crispy Take and Bake Pizza to its deli program in April. Available square or round, the full-size, upscale pizza has a stone-fired, thin crust and bold sauces. A crunchy panko bread crumb application on the bottom maintains crispiness in the deli case for approximately seven days. The crust is paired with popular toppings such as Four Cheese and Double Pepperoni, Buffalo Chicken and Philly Cheesesteak. Delis can sell Thin & Crispy Take and Bake Pizza in slices or as a full pie.
Consumers may be looking for new and interesting frozen pizza toppings and crusts, but value remains a key driver in this category, even if this attribute is being impacted by pizza chain deals.
“While challenges remain in the value segment of the category, our focus with Tony’s—the original frozen pizza brand—is the Original Crust,” says Dixon. “This product provides a working family a great value and turns in the top third of the category. We have some work to do to restore that brand, but we are confident we can get back to our market leader status.”
Totino’s , meanwhile, recently introduced Totino’s Family Size Party Pizza in response to customer requests. “People said they love the Big Party Pizza, but wished they could feed more people with it, so we made it bigger,” says Sarbaugh. “The family size serves four, instead of two. The suggested retail price is $1.98, so it’s a great value for families on a budget.” Classic flavors now available in the 16.6- to 16.9-oz. pizzas are Cheese, Pepperoni and Combination.
Still, when asked what she perceives to be the frozen pizza category’s biggest challenge, Sarbaugh responds, “Pressure from the QSRs [quick-service restaurants], particularly from the value pizza restaurant chains.”
For some consumers, the convenience buying a hot, ready-to-eat pizza for less than the cost of a frozen or take-and-bake pizza can be the deciding factor.
“Pizza has historical been one of the most consistent, growing categories in grocery,” says Dixon. “And I am optimistic that the frozen pizza category will return to growth in the years ahead. The category unexpectedly declined in 2010. Many have sited aggressive pricing by pizza delivery, but I have not seen facts that support that assertion.
“The category declined further in 2011, primarily due to pricing taken to combat commodity inflation across the frozen category, not just pizza.
“A final point, the frozen pizza category has likely become harder to shop over the last few years. I look at the proliferation of brands, flavors and sub-lines. What I find very interesting is that while the category is showing signs of recovery across the U.S., it is struggling in several large Midwest markets. These markets have large regional brand presence with duplication of core flavors that seem to be stifling the category.
“That said, we believe that manufacturers and retailers need to partner to return category-building fundamentals to the category—the right products at the right value, marketed and merchandised with excellence for each customer’s shopper base.”
Geared up for growth
Despite facing some challenges, the frozen pizza category also has opportunities for growth.
Sarbaugh says that while General Mills is seeing private-label brands come into the [frozen pizza] market and hit attractive consumer price points, those able to consistently deliver outstanding quality as well will garner market share and grow in the category. “We believe in providing a quality product at a great price,” she says.
Dixon, meanwhile, cites two big opportunities for growth in the category: Revitalizing the single-serve category; and bringing health and wellness to pizza. “People are eating more frequent meals nowadays and eating more on-the-go, so we need to make pizza a more convenient and accessible choice for them,” he says regarding the single-serve category.
As for his second point, Dixon says that there is a huge opportunity to bring health and wellness benefits to pizza. He notes that Freschetta pizzas feature only premium ingredients: 100% real and all-natural cheeses, olive oil, sea salt, sauces made from ripe tomatoes, flash-frozen sliced vegetables and the finest meats.
Ryan says he sees innovative flavors and the appeal of becoming certified as not using genetically modified ingredients (nonGMO) as two key areas of growth for the frozen pizza category. “In the Indian cuisine category, spices and rich, robust flavor are abundant, and we’re excited to continue to work to bring these flavor profiles to our consumers,” he adds. “Vegetarian/vegan selections are also an area of growth in this category, and one that we meet with our unique certification.”
Like other baked goods categories, the frozen pizza segment has found itself trailing behind competitors in recent years. To remedy this, some pizza manufacturers have made a few pit stops to revitalize their product lines and help them cross the finish line first.