With menus that are customizable to a broad array of tastes and budgets, pizza programs have long been a go-to solution for convenience retailers who want foodservice solutions that deliver immediately profitable models, not to mention proven mechanisms that drive in-store traffic and boost add-on sales.
While just a handful of leading pizza brands are out there battling for a spot on the planogram, this category is arguably one of the most fiercely competitive segments in convenience foodservice. Retailers, too, have shown themselves loyal to brands that best match their needs.
Dan Rotherham, director of operations for Grand Junction, Colo.-based Stop ‘N Save, said retailers should carefully choose a pizza program by diligently seeking a brand that offers strong support in operations and marketing.
“By partnering with the wrong company, one that has no follow-up, retailers may be choosing a company that only tells them good things that they want to hear,” Rotherham said. “They may simply want to stroke you even though things could be a lot better.”
Retailers have lauded the top pizza brands for their rich marketing support, and their keen ability to keep pace with changing tastes and trends. Some brands have ramped up menus to include bigger pizzas that appeal to families looking for home-meal solutions, while other brands have focused on diversifying menus with selections that appeal to multiple dayparts, such as breakfast pizzas.
The top performers in the pizza category, identified by 37 key decision makers who participated in this segment of the CSD 2009 Brand Preference Study, were Hunt Brothers Pizza, Freschetta (Schwan’s Food Service Inc.) and Hot Stuff Foods. Honorable mentions went to Piccadilly Circus Pizza and Red Baron, also a Schwan’s brand.
Seventy percent of the 37 key decision makers said they’d received visits from just one or two pizza suppliers in the last 60 days. The brunt of the remaining respondents, 24%, said they hadn’t received a presentation from a single supplier in that time frame.
Just 6% of retailers, or about two people, said they’d been contacted by three or four pizza suppliers in the last two months, while no one reported that they’d been contacted by five or more suppliers.
With all the budding trends and blossoming tastes—gourmet pizzas, whole-wheat crusts, pesto and peanut sauces—traditional pizzas with toppings like pepperoni, sausage and mushroom are still most likely to be gobbled up by U.S consumers.
“I don’t think pepperoni will lose its top spot,” said Sara Gillis, a project analyst at Chicago-based research firm Technomic Inc. and author of the 2008 Pizza Trends study.
U.S. consumers are a fickle bunch these days, and they’re speaking as much with their money as with their mouths. When Technomic last gauged Pizza Trends in 2006, fully 35% of consumers ordered pizza during the week and 28% ordered it during the weekend. Those numbers flipped in 2008, with about 32% of consumers ordering pizza on the weekend as opposed to 29% ordering on weekdays. Researchers suspect the shift has been fueled by consumers tightening their budgets and eating at home during the week, then ordering cheaper meals on the weekends.
Rising raw material costs have increased prices in all facets of foodservice, and pizza hasn’t been spared. Some large chains are now offering discounts to customers who pick up pizzas to go, said foodservice consultant Dean Dirks, president of Dirks Associates in Gig Harbor, Wash.