KANSAS CITY — Pizza continues to prove it is the total package. The food’s versatility, whether it’s a traditional hand-tossed crust or a gluten-free thin variety, lends itself to almost every market. Infinite toppings offer endless ways to dress up and put a bow on the gift that keeps on giving — for both consumers and manufacturers.
However, as the Italian icon evolves and the organic, gluten-free, non-G.M.O. and better-for-you trends influence the market, producers are having to adjust. This is particularly true for frozen pizza companies competing with quick-service, fast-casual and full-service chains.
“There is a growing demand for higher-quality and innovation that makes consumers feel like they are having an away-from-home experience right in the comfort of their own kitchen,” said Julie Adams, senior manager of consumer insights and analytics for the subsidiaries of the Schwan's Co. “Using a variety of prep methods to transform the crust in a way that is more premium or craft is something to watch this year.”
Thirty-seven per cent of households consumed frozen pizza bought from a grocery store two or three times a month or more, according to a 2016 Mintel report. Takeout or delivery pizza from a restaurant was even more popular and represents the most direct competition for frozen pizza and other types sold at retail. Overall, sales in the category picked up a modest 2% in 2015 and 2016, fueled by growing interest in premium pizzas. Increased variety has made up for flat consumption and volume sales. Mintel predicted the category will grow 11% between 2016 and 2021 to $5.7 billion in sales.
Frozen pizza manufacturers are responding to heightened consumer expectations for quality crusts and toppings influenced by different regions of the world. By combining ingredients, producers must add value while maintaining the appeal of convenience and price.