DiGiorno pizza
DiGiorno offers indulgent options like Bacon & Cheese Stuffed Crust.

Topping the charts

Technomic predicted regional and themed flavors will see the most growth over the next year. And when it comes to flavor, the focus is on the toppings.

Asian-themed pizzas, such as the popular Atlanta-based food service chain Mellow Mushroom’s Thai Dye pizza, as well as Caribbean-themed pizzas, such as the Whitewater, Wis.-based franchise Toppers Pizza’s Jamaican Jerk Chicken, will emerge across channels, according to Technomic.

Sixty-three per cent of consumers listed toppings as the most important factor when shopping for frozen pizza, according to Mintel’s study. Meanwhile, 54% noted cost and crust type as the most important factors. Interest in ethnically or regionally themed pizza also is growing. Technomic’s study showed that interest has risen from 25% to 31% for all ages from 2014 to 2016.

Barbecue pizza
Young adults are especially likely to express interest in a variety of new pizza flavors, such as barbecue.

Reflecting an adventurous approach to food, young adults are especially likely to express interest in a variety of new pizza features, in particular, flavored crusts, specialty cheese and regional flavors such as barbecue or Southwestern. Similarly, millennials in the Technomic study were 47% more likely to try regional or themed pizzas at least once in 2016 compared to 37% in 2014.

Retail pizza’s continued push toward higher quality and greater variety appears to be helping the category increase dollar sales despite flat consumption and volume sales, Mintel said. It also aligns with consumer attitudes. Nearly 75% of the category’s consumers agree that they would spend more on better-quality frozen pizza, and more than seven in 10 stated they like to try new varieties of frozen pizza, according to Mintel. These sentiments point to opportunities for frozen and refrigerated pizza marketers to break frozen-pizza shoppers out of their routines for purchasing the same variety or brand.

Freschetta pizza
Gluten-free and better-for-you crusts create a premium option consumers seek

There are several big markets for pizza across the United States, said Diane Harper, vice-president of consumer insights and analytics for Schwan’s Shared Services. Each market’s flavor preferences vary, and pizza companies need to factor that in, she said. For instance, consumers in the Midwest favor meat toppings while cheese dominates the East Coast, and the West Coast features more better-for-you options such as gluten-free pizzas. Pizza producers may then plan which varieties to offer in different regions.  

“These factors play a role in how product sets are built at the store,” Ms. Harper said. “Bigger sets mean more topping and crust type options.”

DiGiorno, a brand of the Nestle S.A., makes authenticity one of its priorities.

“We keep our mission to make a better pizza at the heart of everything we do,” said Chris Brody, marketing manager for DiGiorno.

DiGiorno crispy pan pizza
DiGiorno’s new Crizpy Pan Pizza comes in its own pan and is baked in about 25 minutes.

DiGiorno offers everything from classics like Rising Crust Supreme to lighter, more premium offerings like Pizzeria! Thin Margherita to indulgent options like Bacon & Cheese Stuffed Crust.

DiGiorno’s new Crizpy Pan Pizza comes in its own pan and is baked in about 25 minutes. The pizza is topped with extra cheese that melts over the edge to create a caramelized crust for a crunchy outside and a light, soft and tender inside.

To attract the consumer seeking better-for-you pizza, Schwan’s Consumer Brands developed Freschetta Gluten-Free and Artisan pizzas. The Gluten-Free line is produced in a dedicated wheat-free facility in California and made with a crispy rice flour crust and topped with a blend of cheeses. The Artisan line features a 51% multigrain crust made with a blend of three whole grains: whole wheat, brown rice and oat flour.

Red Baron pizza
Regional and ethnic flavors are gaining popularity as consumers look for new premium pizza varieties.

Under the Red Baron brand, Schwan’s also released a Classic Crust Chipotle Chicken pizza in February.

“We want to expand the appeal of Red Baron to a more diverse consumer set by bringing them bolder, spicier flavors,” said Brian Van Otterloo, senior director of pizza marketing for Schwan's. “The chipotle flavor profile is a restaurant menu staple, and chicken has been outpacing all other protein consumption, so we wanted to bring these trends to retail in an approachable way.”