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    The upper crust

    Fresh ingredients and unique toppings and crust styles will help position store brand take-and-bake pizzas for success.

    According to \"The Pizza Market in the U.S.: Foodservice and Retail,\" a September 2012 report from the Packaged Facts division of Rockville, Md.-based MarketResearch.com, private label continues to gain sales – and steal share – within the retail pizza category, including the refrigerated pizza segment. Food consumption, however, has been trending toward more healthful options, which could come at the expense of pizza. Retailers would be wise to enhance the overall healthfulness of their pizza offerings and \"experiment with options providing more clear-cut healthfulness without sacrificing taste,\" notes David Sprinkle, Packaged Facts publisher.

    Ingredients for success
    \"Superior-quality baked-to-rise pizza and fresh dough pizza is a trend right now,\" says George Sarandos, CEO, Alpha Foods Co., Waller, TX. \"Customers are not looking for cheap products; they want a superior-tasting product so they can feed their family with a product they can enjoy,\" he explains.

    Fresh ingredients such as vine-ripe tomatoes rather than tomato paste make an overwhelming difference, he adds. Before placing a product on the shelves, retailers should consider its value – cheap products might sell \"once or twice,\" but then the customer will seek out something better.

    top some store brand refrigerated pizzas with fresh, healthful ingredients to appeal to the growing base of health-conscious consumers.

    block the view – include a window on the pizza package so shoppers can see the ingredients clearly.

    A major trend also can be found in gluten-free options. Gluten-free products attract health-conscious consumers beyond those with celiac disease, notes Evan Hyman, business development manager, private label, Ingredion Incorporated, Westchester, Ill. As retailers begin to develop their refrigerated private label programs, they have shown \"strong interest in the development of gluten-free pizza and crusts,\" he points out. And many manufacturers have developed gluten-free products that also taste very good.

    Consumers also appreciate unique toppings and crust profiles. Don Czerwonka, vice president of sales, Little Lady Foods, Elk Grove Village, Ill., says emerging as a trend here are limited-time offers that drive excitement and refresh the category with \"more daring\" flavor profiles. Also becoming more prevalent, he says, are \"thinner crusts for added/extended crispness through refrigeration.\"

    Sarah Odde, director of specialty marketing and strategic development, Orion Foods System, Sioux Falls, S.D., agrees that exclusive offers that are available for a brief period of time are a good idea. She also points to a surge toward new target flavor profiles such as sweet-heat and sweet and savory, as well as healthful items or items perceived to be healthful – especially considering that calorie counts are being posted on more menus. Retailers could potentially attract new consumers into the marketplace by offering lower-calorie pizza.

    \"Consumers continue to want pizza while on a diet,\" she says.

    Odde advises retailers to \"always start with the customer in mind\" to discover and implement the best product development opportunities. They then should ensure that they have \"the right product, size, price point, packaging and marketing,\" she says.

    Additionally, there has been a move toward clean-label products and simple ingredient decks.

    \"Consumers are looking for authentic and simple products that can be made at home,\" Hyman says. \"Multiple retailers have launched private label brands and products in the clean label space.\"

    Catch their eye
    Because the package is what initially attracts the consumer, presentation is crucial. The packaging not only must have functional capabilities, but also must \"convey your consumer value proposition,\" Odde says. It should be \"easy to read and eye-catching\" and communicate \"fresh,\" she explains.

    Retailers will want to keep packaging as natural-looking as possible, Smith adds, \"to create a made-in-store feel.\" He believes that bright colors and bold coloring work well for the frozen pizza case; however, they have the opposite effect on the take-and- bake side.

    consider meal combos that bundle refrigerated pizza with breadsticks or wings.

    skimp on sampling – with the right timing, its a great way to move refrigerated pizzas off the shelf and onto shoppers dinner tables.

    Czerwonka agrees that packaging needs to make the product appear freshly made, similar to the way carryout pizzeria boxes demonstrate freshness.

    But Sarandos says the packaging also should be high-end with unique and attractive graphics and colors – and with a window for the customers to view the pizza. The consumer associates the way a product is presented on the outside as a reflection of the quality of the product within.

    Peddle the pies
    Retailers could find numerous innovative ways to market and merchandise take-and-bake pizza and crusts to increase sales. One strategy that has proved be successful, Czerwonka says, is \"merchandising as a part of a tie-in to major movies or events.\" Such efforts are a good way to create awareness and sale visibility without discounting prices.

    \"We also keep in mind that kids have influential buying power on their parents,\" he says. He goes on to say that Little Lady Foods \"tends to target the mom buyer\" but is conscientious of kids as influencers. To capitalize on this opportunity, \"understand the flavor profiles that kids like, and marry that to the nutritional requirements that moms prefer,\" he adds.

    Retailers also could increase market-basket rings by offering meal deals.

    \"Offer breadsticks or garlic cheesy bread at a discount with the purchase of pizza,\" Odde suggests.

    Peter Smith, national marketing manager, Champion Foods, New Boston, Mich., adds that combo-meal options – \"pizza and breadsticks or pizza and wings in the same package\" – are increasing in popularity. As the economy improves, retailers are going to face increased competition from traditional pizza restaurants, and these combo meals are one way for retailers to retain/gain business.

    Offering a \"pizza destination\" in the store is very effective, too, he says.

    \"Many times, take-and-bake is under-merchandised and shoved in the back or the bottom of a case,\" Smith explains. Since take-and-bake pizza often is not a planned purchase, making it \"front and center\" will help sales.

    Jenny Mazzaferro, sales coordinator for Montreal-based DaVinci Foods, also advises retailers to enliven and freshen up the deli aisle by promoting seasonal recipes.

    \"Its all related to going back to [a] very natural type of product and using the ingredients that are fresh and local,\" she says, noting that in the summertime, for example, retailers could offer a primavera pizza topped with an abundance of vegetables.

    Put your product to the (taste) test
    Also helpful in building sales of store brand take-and-bake pizza are in-store tastings. Sarandos encourages sampling from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m., which could encourage shoppers to make a purchase for that nights dinner. He is confident that once shoppers try and enjoy the product – assuming it is top-of-the-line in quality – they will buy it.

    Refrigerated pizza and pizza crust category performance
    Source: IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. Total U.S. supermarkets, drugstores, mass market retailers (including Walmart), military commissaries and select club and dollar retail chains, for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 8, 2013.
    Look whats new
    New from Metro Inc., Montreal, is Metro Greek Half Pizza. The refrigerated product is topped with black olives, sweet peppers, feta cheese and more. It retails in a 275g cello-wrapped, cardboard-backed package.

    Mama Cozzis Pizza Kitchen 16\" Four Meat Pizza from Batavia, Ill.-based ALDI Inc. is topped with premium Italian sausage, pepperoni and bacon. It is seasoned with beef topping and a blend of four cheeses. The refrigerated pizza is said to feature a traditional crust and premium ingredients that include olive oil, vine-ripened tomatoes, garlic and an oregano blend. It retails in a recyclable 47-oz. carton.

    Presidents Choice Thin Pizza Crust from Brampton, Ontario-based Loblaw Companies Ltd. is said to be reformulated with an improved recipe. The thin stone-baked crust bakes to a crisp, golden finish. The product retails in a 220g cello-wrapped package that features a quick-and-easy recipe suggestion.

    New from Walmart, Bentonville, Ark., is the Marketside Thin Crust Extra Large Extreme Bacon Pizza. Said to be made with premium smoky bacon and a five-cheese blend, the refrigerated product retails in a 100 percent recycled 29.5-oz. carton.

    Source: Mintels Global New Products Database

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