How does the saying go? Isn’t it, “Good things come to those who bake.” Actually, that’s not exactly it—but retail pizza manufacturers aren’t complaining.
Frozen pizza is one of the largest categories in the retail freezercase according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. IRI InfoScan data show category dollar sales rose 3.02% to approximately $4.8 billion with an accompanying 1.55% rise in unit share during a 52-week tracking period ended Dec. 3, 2017. IRI’s data reflect total US multi-outlet locations including grocery, drug, mass market, convenience, military and select club and dollar retailers.
Driving retail pizza sales are a host of new frozen products embracing all trends—different tastes, premium new toppings and healthier new options. Likewise, retailers appear to be allocating more shelf space and expanding the category with new pizza snack options.
Any Way You Slice It
Bringing something truly new to the freezercase last year was the Nestlé Foods Division, the category parent to DiGiorno, Tombstone, Jack’s and California Pizza Kitchen. In this particular case, Nestlé changed things up with a DiGiorno Crispy Pan Pizza, which bakes right in its own tray. Offerings are topped with edge to edge cheese “for a crust that is crispy and caramelized on the outside and soft and tender inside,” the company says. Four 12” x 8” varieties—including Pepperoni, Four Cheese, Supreme and Three Meat—rolled out nationwide with a SRP of $8.49.
Nestlé took pizza and pizza crust in opposite directions for more DiGiorno offerings. Two new DiGiorno Ultra Thin Crust pizzas represent the brand’s first gluten-free formulas, which also are non-GMO. Meanwhile, product developers also created two new DiGiorno Bacon & Cheese Stuffed varieties, where cheese and Applewood smoked are formulated right into the crust. Varieties include “Bacon Me Crazy” and “Aloha Bacon.”
Real Good Pizza crust is made from a blend of proprietary antibiotic-free chicken and parmesan cheese—instead of traditional flour, corn or rice base. As a result, Real Good pizza offerings contain just 4g of carbs with 25g of protein per serving.
No less active last year was the Schwan’s Company, parent to the Freschetta, Red Baron and Tony’s brands. Schwan’s actually added to the list last year by acquiring three more frozen pizza makers specializing in branded, private label and foodservice. They included MaMa Rosa’s Pizza, Sidney, Ohio; Better Baked Foods, North East, Pa.; and Drayton Foods, Fargo, N.D. At retail, Schwan’s shifted gears after 40 years with the Red Baron, to introduce a new “Baroness” character, a real mom with daily meal challenges, for brand marketing campaigns. Late in 2017, Freschetta announced a brand relaunch, beginning with entirely new packaging graphics. Officials say the new, clean Kitchen Fresh Pizza design (rolling out in time for the NFL Super Bowl) is a one-shot approach in which all of the ingredients and packaging elements are shot together for an authentic feel.
Another firm changing the competitive set is The Real Good Food Company Inc. Last summer saw this Los Angeles business introduce two lines of frozen pizzas and frozen breakfast pizzas (both with personal and large sizes; and multiple varieties). The disruptive thing is that Real Good Pizza crust is made from a blend of proprietary antibiotic-free chicken and parmesan cheese—instead of traditional flour, corn or rice base. As a result, Real Good pizza offerings contain just 4g of carbs with 25g of protein per serving.
Retailers also want a piece of the frozen pizza pie. Last spring saw grocery wholesaler SUPERVALU Inc. expand its Culinary Circle premium line including two new cheese-stuffed crust frozen pizzas: Pepperoni and Three Meat. Last fall, Walmart and the Italian Trade Agency joined forces to launch Sam’s Choice Italia, a broad 40-item line, which includes six frozen pizzas.
Also emphasizing Italian authenticity is Chef Anthony Russo and his Houston-based New York Pizzeria Inc. The company’s frozen pizza business produces authentic New York-style frozen pizza that’s free of preservatives, nitrates, rBST and pre-frozen toppings. They are available with either regular New York-style or gluten-free crusts under the Chef Russo brand or private label. Last year brought two new chef-created varieties: Italian-Style Meat Lovers and Prosciutto, Fig & Arugula,
1. Frozen pizza is one of the largest categories in the retail freezercase. Information Resources’ InfoScan data show category dollar sales rose 3.02% to approximately $4.8 billion with an accompanying 1.55% rise in unit share during a 52-week tracking period ended Dec. 3, 2017.
2. One category disruptor is The Real Good Food Company Inc., Los Angeles. Its Real Good pizzas have crusts based on a blend of proprietary antibiotic-free chicken and parmesan cheese—instead of traditional flour, corn or rice base.
Snacks & More
It’s clear, meanwhile, that a healthy frozen pizza category encourages retailers to expand shelf facings and include new types of pizza-related snacks.
Last year brought new DiGiorno Pizza Buns, small snacks with pizza dough that cooks to golden brown on the edges—and is stuffed with ingredients in the middle. Varieties include Five Cheese, Pepperoni, Italian Style Supreme and Spinach Artichoke. An 8oz box contains six buns with two recommended per serving (for microwave or conventional oven prep).
Other new offerings include specialties from Smart Flour Foods, Austin, Texas, and Flagship Food Group, Denver. Already known for its frozen gluten-free, ancient grain pizzas, Smart Flour Foods introduced three ancient grain pizza snacks last summer. They’re made with sorghum, amaranth, teff, plus chia in the crust and filled with hormone-free cheese and nitrate/nitrite-free pepperoni in the meat versions. The snacks also are free of artificial colors and flavors; made with several organic ingredients; and free of many allergens including wheat, nuts, tree nuts, soy and eggs.
Consumers looking for still more healthy freezercase options might find new gluten-free pizza dough from Wholly Wholesome, Chester, N.J. The company’s 14oz pizza dough (suitable for vegans) is non-GMO Project Verified and free from wheat, dairy, egg, soy, nut, corn and casein.
For its part, General Mills was busy in both the snacking and pizza dough categories. In the freezercase, it introduced Totino’s Pizza Rolls in a Macaroni & Cheese with Bacon variety. Out in the refrigerated dough case, General Mills unveiled two new Pillsbury’s Best pizza doughs (Classic, Thin Crust) now in individually wrapped parchment paper. Now appearing in an attractive narrow package (no longer a cylinder can) this product makes it simple for consumers to simply unroll and place the dough and parchment on a baking pan, top and then bake. Available in Classic and Thin Crust varieties.