Make Some Dough with Store Brand Pizza

November 5, 2014

StoreBrands | November 5, 2014  It’s been said that when it comes to pizza, “even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.” In other words: Americans love pizza — even when it’s not the best it can be.

But that’s not to say people don’t have standards when purchasing pizza. In fact, if they had to choose between restaurant pizza or retail pizza — including store brand pizza — for a meal or snack, the majority of people likely would choose restaurant pizza. “Category Insight: Pizza and Pies,” a November 2013 report from global market researcher Mintel, notes that 66 percent of U.S. consumers believe store-bought frozen or refrigerated pizza does not taste as good as restaurant pizza. Therefore, retailers might want to work to improve the taste and quality of their products.

Dan Gemeiner, director of sales for the retail arm of Russo’s New York Pizzeria, a Houston-based pizzeria chain, adds that retailers should never sacrifice quality for price with their private label pizzas.

“Offer consumers something new, different and exciting,” he states. “Think outside the box.”

Where to play

In the frozen pizza subcategory, products have had a bad rap for years as being boring, overly processed, unhealthy and of low quality, says Shawn Hogle, senior manager of category and supplier — dairy and frozen with Daymon Worldwide, Stamford, Conn. This is changing, though, as some retailers now offer higher-quality ingredients and “flavor adventure.”

Noteworthy examples mentioned in the Mintel report include Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway with its Safeway Select Wood-Fired Crust pizza range, made from dough that is hand-stretched in Italy and baked in Italian wood-burning ovens; and Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart with its Sam’s Choice Flatbread Nacho Supreme Pizza made, with cheddar cheese sauce, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, tortilla chips, ground beef and pico de gallo.

Gluten-free options are another area of opportunity, Gemeiner states, noting that frozen pizza is in one of the three top-selling segments in the gluten-free sector — frozen dinners, entrées and pizza. Gluten-free frozen crusts also are worth considering, as they offer consumers “the opportunity to create their own specialty pizza at home.”

Speaking of crusts, thinner crusts on frozen pizzas give retailers the chance to appeal to those watching their weight, states Tobias Görcke, a vice president with Freiberger USA, Morris Plains, N.J. He notes that more and more household decision-makers are females on low-carb diets. Görcke also says retailers should consider downsizing their pies — from 12 inches to 11 inches, or from 11 inches to 10 inches — which some national brands have been doing. Doing so would provide better price points for the shopper.

And don’t forget about frozen pizza with fresh, all-natural ingredients to appeal to health-conscious shoppers, Gemeiner advises. Retailers should consider such nutrient-rich ingredients as whole grains, ancient grains and vegetables, which improve a product’s healthfulness without overly impacting taste in the way that limiting fat and sodium levels would, the Mintel report explains.

Turning to refrigerated offerings, Jenny Mazzaferro, sales coordinator with Davinci Foods Ltd., Montreal, notes that fresh deli pizza with authentic crust that doesn’t taste “like cardboard” appeals to consumers, as does rising-crust pizza.

And on the shelf-stable end, pizza crusts — stone-baked, whole-wheat, organic, focaccia-style and more — are a hot area of opportunity. Kits are making in-roads, too, says Paul Currie, director — deli for Daymon Worldwide.

Pack your pizza right

But having the right products isn’t enough to move store brand pizza products, Görcke says. The right packaging also is critical.

“Branding and design [are] imperative for the success of private labels,” he says. “Bad design is just as expensive as good design.”

One way retailers could make packaging for frozen pizza appealing is by calling out ethnic or regional points of differentiation on region-specific products, Hogle states.

“Leaning on the various pizza meccas of Italy, Chicago, New York and California for their unique offerings and heritage can be a win-win for consumers while adding a level of transparency and local flair — both premium attributes,” he says.

Also be sure to call out a product’s freshness and quality on packaging, Gemeiner advises.

And when tiering store brand frozen pizzas, retailers should be certain the packaging clearly communicates whether the product is value-oriented, national brand equivalent or premium, Gemeiner points out.

As for refrigerated pizzas, the more the pizza can be seen, the fresher the appeal.

“When buying fresh, consumers shop with their eyes first and then become repeat customers if the quality and taste satisfied their needs,” Currie says. “Most suppliers for fresh pizzas have used a basic brown box with a viewing window to allow the product to become the selling tool.”

And with shelf-stable crust kits, clear packaging with plenty of informative callouts has been the norm, Currie explains.

Push your pies

As for merchandising, frozen pizzas should be split into two blocks, with one side comprising multi-serve offerings and the other limited to single-serve products, Hogle states. Specialty and value products also could be given their own sections.

“[The specialty section] is where flatbreads, Italian imports, ultra-thin-crust and local favorites can be on display with those flavor-adventure-topping combinations,” he says. “The value section can then truly focus on the basic offerings in both multi-serve traditional thin crusts and ‘cheap eats’ snacking, delivering competitive prices and appealing to mass tastes.”

And retailers shouldn’t lay frozen pizzas flat on the shelf, which makes the front of the package difficult for consumers to see. Instead, they should place the pies upright, Gemeiner states. Such placement also helps to highlight new items, allowing shoppers to compare store brand products vs. the national brands’.

Combo deals also work for both frozen and take-and-bake pizzas, Mazzaferro says.

“An example would be, ‘Buy a case of beer or pop, get a free private label pizza,’” she explains.

And retailers should consider secondarily placing some take-and-bake pizzas in a refrigerated case near the front entrance, Mazzaferro states, for time-starved shoppers seeking fast, convenient options.

And for all varieties of pizza products, retailers could create an overarching Italian section that includes not only frozen, take-and-bake and other pizza products, but also calzones, Stromboli, fresh pasta, breadsticks and more, Currie says.

Do call out ethnic or regional points of differentiation on frozen pizza packaging.

Don’t neglect the gluten-free category, a tremendous area of opportunity for frozen pizza.

Do consider offering stone-baked, whole-wheat, focaccia-style and other unique crusts.

Don’t lay frozen pizzas flat — stand them upright so consumers can see the box fronts.

Look what’s new

New from Batavia, Ill.-based ALDI Inc. is LiveGFree Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix. The mix is made with premium ingredients and is said to be all-natural. It produces a “great-tasting” pizza crust that is gluten-, cholesterol-, nut-, soy and wheat-free, and retails in a recyclable 16-oz. paperboard carton.

Now available from Kroger Co., Cincinnati, is Simple Truth Organic Spinach & Feta Pizza. Containing no artificial flavors or preservatives, the USDA-certified frozen organic product retails in a 16.25-oz. paperboard carton.

Mi Casa Forno Pulled Pork Bake-At-Home Artisan Style Pizza is newly available at Metro Inc., Montreal. Described as handmade on a stone-baked crust and topped with the finest ingredients, the refrigerated product retails in a 542g bag.

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