The frozen pizza industry has a problem on its hands: in the face of health and "real food" trends, frozen pizza may be suffering from a processed food stereotype. The bottom line is that during 2010-2014, the percentage of households eating frozen pizza in the past 30 days has dropped slightly, while the percentage eating 10+ pizzas per month has dropped 15%. The trend is particularly troubling because it involves demographics that have been core users, such as consumers living in households with an income under $25K, married households with children with an income under $50K, and Hispanics, according to “Pizza Market in the U.S.: Foodservice and Retail, 2nd Edition,” a report by market research publisher Packaged Facts (packagedfacts.com).
But against the backdrop of an improving economy—and signs that the middle class may finally be benefitting from it—this is only half the story. Restaurant pizza chains offering the promise of higher quality increasingly beckon, and pizza delivery and takeout provide very strong ammunition in the form of simplicity and convenience.
The good news is that, in the face of this double-sided attack, industry players are well on their way to addressing the problem. Packaged Facts' analysis of the 30 highest-growth frozen pizza brands reveals that 12 are strongly associated with restaurant chains and/or restaurant quality. Meanwhile one-third clearly and predominantly associates themselves with health and wellness.
"The reality that these themes are finding a growing audience suggests that frozen pizza can gain traction by fighting fire with fire," notes Packaged Facts research director David Sprinkle. "Frozen pizza manufacturers can combat attrition through healthier product positioning. Marketers such as Annie's Inc. and Amy's challenge the notion that frozen pizza has to be heavily processed."
Additional findings from the report reveal that consumers who say they are eating more frozen pizza over the past few years are also more likely to be eating ready-to-eat prepared food and snacking instead of having a full meal. This reinforces the notion that frozen pizza caters to demographics that value convenience.
The convenience of frozen pizza explains at least in part the continued loyalty younger adults have the product, which in general is good news for the pizza industry. Indeed, younger consumers remain a key demographic for frozen pizza—due perhaps to improvements in nutrition of frozen pizza; the ease with which it can be cooked, served and shared; as well as the fact that younger shoppers enter the shopping experience with fewer preconceived notions than preceding generations that grew up on highly processed frozen meals. Moreover, frozen pizza is a good value as compared to take-and-bake or restaurant pizza. Trader Joe's, Kashi and Lean Cuisine frozen pizzas feature interesting ingredient profiles that may keep younger consumers engaged while at the same time boosting appeal among the "urban" pizza consumer.