As foodservice sales make up for lost gasoline and cigarette profits, more retailers are jumping on the pizza bandwagon.
It’s a wise move considering Americans love their pizza. According to Parade magazine, 94% of the U.S. population eats pizza; Pizzaware.com noted that Americans eat about 100 acres of pizza each day (350 slices per second); and Food Industry News reported that pizza accounts for more that 10% of all foodservice sales.
Pizza Quarterly Magazine’s 2009 survey of pizza retailers found 43% of respondents have seen the most growth in their business during the past year in the category of take-out pizza, while 24% reported more customer demand for gourmet toppings. Meanwhile, 40% reported that demand was up overall for pizza in 2009 compared to 2008, while 32% said business is decreasing and 28% said it remained the same.
Seth Kahn, owner of Darla-K-foods Marts in Cameron, La., had not planned to incorporate pizza into his foodservice plan, but “customers demanded it,” he told CSD. When he signed up with Hunt Brothers Pizza, customers were quick to respond. “We immediately started selling 150 pizzas a day,” Kahn said.
Meanwhile, Mike Barry president of Pennington c-stores in rural Thief River Falls, Minn., just sold his one-millionth Hot Stuff Foods pizza this past fall. Barry works to run his stores as pizza places that sell gas—instead of the other way around. He proves to his customers that his locations are serious about their pizza using a variety of pizza promotions and marketing strategies, including a pizza trivia radio show on a local station.
In addition to increased marketing strategies, to further entice customers, retailers across the U.S. are providing more topping varieties, adding breakfast pizza options and offering pizza bundle meal deals.
New equipment, such as high-speed convection ovens, are also making it easier for retailers to offer made-to-order pizzas that can be ready in minutes. Self-rising crusts and other short cuts are also helping pizza prep time get speedier. Chains like 7-Eleven and Nice N Easy are using this state-of-the art equipment to push pizza sales around the clock. Both chains offer fresh pizza on demand 24 hours a day.
Though pizza sales slowed in recent months due to extreme regional economic downward movement, they appear to be picking up again now, said Sandy Arrasmith, operations manager for J & H Oil Co., the Wyoming, Mich.-based operator of 43 convenience stores.
Arrasmith also noticed that one burgeoning trend in the pizza business over the past few months has been the switch from individual mini pizzas to what she described as a mega-wedge. “It’s a little more cost effective, and the retail is lower as well,” she said. “We felt that converting to a smaller retail package would serve everyone better. Otherwise, we’re sticking to what’s tried and true.”
According to CSD’s 2010 Brand Preference Study, respondents reported that Hunt Bros. and Hot Stuff Foods were the top performers in the pizza category. Honorable mentions were Piccadilly Circus Pizza, Red Baron (Schwan’s), Godfather’s and Papa John’s. Of the 22 decision makers, 5% reported that they had not seen any sales presentations from pizza manufacturers in the last 60 days, while 95% said they had viewed presentations by one or two companies out of the nine in the market.
In the last 60 days, buyers reported being visited by sales representatives from Hunt Brothers Pizza (45%), Hot Stuff Foods (27%) Red Baron (Schwan’s) (14%), Piccadilly Circus Pizza (9%), Godfather’s (9%), Freshetta (Schwan’s) (5%) and Krispy Krunchy (5%).
- Hunt Bros.
- Hot Stuff Foods
- Piccadilly Circus Pizza
- Red Baron (Schwan’s)
- Papa John’s