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The aroma is all too familiar: savory spices, pungent garlic, with undertones of baking bread. You’re at the supermarket, and you know that you smell pizza.
And there it is — you spot the pizza coming out of the oven, being sliced and plated, with an extra garnish of grated cheese and herbs, accompanied by a colorful salad. The visuals of bright-red tomato sauce, rustically appealing toppings, and gooey, stretching cheese delight the eye. Shoppers eagerly accept the tacit invitation to sample these wares and, perhaps, are inspired to replicate the experience at home. But you’re not in the deli or near the hot bar — you’re in the frozen aisle.
Of course, as of now, this scenario is entirely fictional, outside of a random product sampling. This kind of romance only happens in the fresh perimeter.
But why can’t it happen in the frozen aisle? In our industry’s ongoing quest to reinvent the store, why should frozen constantly play second fiddle to fresh? There are plenty of opportunities to demonstrate the flavor, convenience and versatility awaiting shoppers in the freezer case.
“Grocers should leverage cross-selling promotions to complete the pizza meal,” asserts Ryan James Dee, creative director at San Diego-based experiential marketing solutions provider Interactions, a subsidiary of Daymon. “For example, a store could easily upsell garlic and cheese bread from bakery, freshly packed salads from produce, hot wing appetizers from the deli, and wine from adult beverage to create a total meal solution. In order to make it even more enticing, a grocer could sample small bites of everything to sell the complete package either right at the demonstration or provide a small map with exclusive offers to collect the components across the store.”
To be sure, product innovation has taken frozen pizza well beyond the cardboard-like disks of yore to highly diverse and delicious offerings that can rival their counterparts on the other side of the store and at budget-friendly price points.
Strategically cross-merchandise them with complementary products, demonstrate the ease of putting them together, and satisfy shoppers’ mealtime need states.
Disruptin’ in the Oven
Despite peaks during big-game and holiday periods, frozen pizza could use a boost. Schaumburg, Ill.-based Nielsen reports sales approaching $6.5 billion in the pizza/snack category for the year ending last Dec. 17. But Chicago-based market researcher Mintel predicts that sales will remain flat through 2019 after a steady decline since 2010, with household penetration contracting despite the overall popularity of pizza.
Retailers can easily demonstrate how to take frozen pizzas up a notch. The Harrisburg, Pa.-based National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA), on its EasyHomeMeals.com site, offers a recipe for grilled pizza that involves taking a frozen cheese pizza, adding veggies, fresh basil and extra cheese, and finishing on the gas grill — an ideal way for grocers to demonstrate customization and to cross-merchandise with produce to drive sales and consumption of fresh vegetables.
Further, grocers can create buzz among younger consumers by highlighting intense flavors favored by Millennials; documenting store events and experiences on social media, coupled with special offers; and partnering with “hip” brands like Screamin’ Sicilian, Sasquatch and Urban Pie, along with others offering organic, natural and free-from products.
“Our palate is becoming more and more adventurous every day, and there are no signs of this trend stopping anytime soon,” Dee says. “Today’s shopper is always on the hunt for something new and unexpected. These factors have already influenced innovations in frozen pizza, and we’ll see this continue.”
Among global flavor profiles Dee expects to see hitting store shelves: Korean pizza with gochujang, Ethiopian sambuusa pizza and Japanese ramen pizza. “Another trend we may see influencing frozen pizza is the DIY movement that we’re seeing with services like Plated and Hello Fresh,” he adds. “In this respect, we could easily see frozen pizzas kits that require a bit of assembly from the home chef, allowing them to customize the pizza with as many or as few toppings as they like.”
Among new category disruptors are Los Angeles-based Caulipower, which is working with retailers like Bristol Farms and Whole Foods Market to create awareness of its frozen pizza made with a gluten-free cauliflower-based crust.
“While Caulipower is a great-tasting ‘unifier’ product for all consumers — health-conscious, gluten-free or just lovers of pizza — we work with our retail partners to merchandise it so that all pizza consumers can access it,” says founder and CEO Gail Becker. “While Caulipower can be an ideal healthy meal solution for young families, it can also be ideal for consumers that require to eat gluten-free. We tie into all major holidays and occasions that call for large-group dining, and leverage the fact that we can attract customers who may not usually find themselves buying frozen pizza.”
Designed to be lower in sodium, calories and sugar than traditional frozen pizzas, Caulipower comes in three-cheese, veggie and margherita varieties, as well as a plain crust for home customization.
Leveraging the Consumer
Now more than ever, consumer research is driving product innovation, according to Laurie Fallucca, chief creative officer at Milwaukee-based frozen pizza maker Palermo Villa Inc. “It’s all about knowing what consumers want and giving it to them. This involves retailer-specific research in addition to the general population.”
Fallucca’s company offers consumers the chance to join “pizza clubs” — La Famiglia for its Palermo’s brand, Scream Team for Screamin’ Sicilian, and Urbaneers for Urban Pie. “We frequently survey club members about potential new varieties, product names and more, and also invite them into our test kitchen to provide their opinions during product development,” she explains. “It’s a great way to engage consumers while also gathering feedback that helps us better meet their needs.”
As shopping behavior is planned and rushed, it’s critical to call attention to new products and ideas that can drive shoppers into the frozen aisle for more impulse purchases, says Diane Harper, VP of consumer insights and analytics at Schwan’s Shared Services LLC, part of the Marshall, Minn.-based Schwan Food Co., whose pizza brands include Red Baron and Freschetta.
“Retailers can consider featuring on-trend products and new items in the end caps, which may be slower-turn items but can drive shoppers into the frozen aisle for unplanned purchases,” Harper notes. “Retailers can test secondary placements such as adding a freezer in the deli area near complementary items like semi-prepared foods and refrigerated pizzas, or near the checkout to capture shoppers who might not be planning to go the to the frozen food aisle on this trip.”
Harper adds that it’s essential to build trust among shoppers in both frozen food products and the frozen food aisle to create and reinforce long-term loyalty to the category. “By turning the section into a discovery-filled, linger-worthy destination,” she says, “retailers will not only draw more carts down the frozen aisle, they’ll amplify the entire shopping experience and boost sales.”
To learn more, read "Time, Tastes Driving Frozen Pizza Sales."