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American packers serve up healthy pizza; foodservice front eyes new breakfast items.

American Packers Serve Up Healthy Pizza; Foodservice Front Eyes New Breakfast Items

The latest round of "healthy eating" marketing initiatives in the USA has been launched by frozen pizza manufacturers. McCain Ellio's was first out of the pack with Healthy Slices. Billed as 97% fat free and low in cholesterol, the line features vegetable toppings exclusively.

Retailing for $3.49 to $3.99 per 18.2-oz. box containing six slices, the following varieties are available: Garden Style (topped with broccoli, red and green peppers); Mixed Vegetable (mushrooms, onions, red and green peppers); Cheese (low fat mozzarella).

McCain Ellio's has projected first-year sales to represent five percent of overall category volume, rising to as much as 10% during the second year. It points to the fact that the "healthy/light" segment is the frozen food department's fastest growing sector -- up more than 26% last year.

"Most of the newer light pizzas contain low-fat meats," pointed out Gene Wilka, president of the Lodi, N.J.-headquartered company. "But if you're a pizza eater, a lower amount of fat will equal a loss of taste. So we're using vegetables and real low-fat cheese rather than imitation cheese and modified meats, as others are doing."

Wilka was perhaps referring to Pillsbury's Totino and Kraft General Foods' Tombstone label. The former reformulated its line last year to reduce cholesterol through the use of leaner cheeses and meats, while the latter served up a light version with 50% less fat.

Now, with promotional support from former tennis star Chris Evert, Kraft is about to introduce a new range called Eating Right. Few details were forthcoming at press time.

ConAgra Frozen Foods is joining the competition by extending its Healthy Choice brand into the frozen pizza category. Four recipes low in fat, cholesterol and sodium are being offered initially, each featuring French bread crusts. They are: Italian turkey sausage, pepperoni, deluxe, cheese. With under 30% of calories derived from fat, each 6.25-oz. to 6.45-oz. serving checks in at 330 calories or fewer. Suggested retail prices are $1.79 to $1.99.

What does this "healthy" new product trend in the frozen pizza market look like to long-established manufacturers turning out more traditional pies?

"We don't look at them as traditional pizza players," said Scott Glatstein, director of marketing for Pillsbury's pizza division. "They will likely appeal to consumers who are rotating within the brand's lineup and draw from Lean Cuisine and Weight Watchers. Our consumers are telling us they want a pizza, not a diet or health food."

Indeed, Pillsbury is keying in on the deluxe pizza segment by expanding its Pappalo's Pizza brand into central and southern USA markets. Available in traditional crust ($4.29) and pan pizza ($4.89) styles, varieties are: sausage and pepperoni, three-cheese, sausage, pepperoni, and supreme.

"While the frozen pizza category has been relatively flat during the past few years, deluxe pizza is the fastest-growing segment," said Mary Carey, associate marketing manager of the Pillsbury pizza division. "It's up 13% in the past year."

"Pappalo's delivers what consumers want by combining low-fat meats and pizzeria-style crust," she added. "All four varieties are 90% to 93% fat-free without sacrificing lots of real cheese and plenty of high quality toppings."

From Gourmet to Bravo

New on the market in the US northeast is the Master Choice Gourmet upscale private label distributed by Compass Foods Inc. of Montvale, N.J. Among its offerings is an 18-oz. Spinach Pizza. Billed as handmade from a Chicago pizzeria recipe, the product is generously topped with mozzarella, cheddar, provolone and romano cheeses in addition to California tomato sauce, finely chopped spinach and olive oil.

Quick Frozen Foods International samplers found the product to be a cut above those of most others found in the frozen food case. Priced at $3.99, its total calorie count of 1,200 averages 300 per slice (4.5-oz.) serving.

Bravo Pizza Restaurant Style is another product gaining presence in northeastern USA supermarkets. Packed in Milford, Conn., by Michael and David Tiscia, 13.5-oz. pies were available for a bargain introductory price of $1.24 at an A&P store in Fort Lee, N.J., just before Christmas.

Produced in so-called plain style with a mozzarella and romano cheese and tomato sauce topping, package notes suggest that consumers add their own extras, such as meatballs, chili and jalapenos, or sausage.

Foodservice Dominates

While the 346 million pound retail frozen pizza market in the USA is valued at $1.2 billion, the big bucks are earned on the foodservice front. Indeed, franchise pizza restaurant sales alone were estimated to be some $11.5 billion in 1990. That year orders for pizza at restaurants rose almost 5%, and the product was included in 13% of all meals served, according to a survey conducted by NPD/CREST. Customer traffic advanced 3%.

Pizza now ranks second only to hamburgers' 17% rating as the "main dish" of choice among fast food diners. And thin crust versions are the most popular, accounting for 53% of all orders. However, pan pizza has grown from 14% of the market in 1987 to 22% in 1990. And as most pizzas are topped with mozzarella, it should come as no surprise that American per capita consumption of that type of cheese has more than doubled during the last decade to 6.4 pounds.

Pizza is so hot among consumers eating away from home that a number of operators have come up with innovative new toppings to appeal to the breakfast palate. Until recently, the product was thought of almost entirely as a PM menu item.

Among the creative variations being baked off in Little Pizza Stations' K mart store locations are egg and cheese on a croissant crust, plain, or topped with sausage or bacon. "It's definitely a segment of the business that is being developed," said Mike Scruggs, vice president. "Ten years ago people weren't eating pizza for lunch, and now they are."

In Providence, R.I., an independent gourmet delivery outfit called the Pizza Pie-er is marketing brunch pizzas said to be "great with coffee or tea." On the menu are: honey ham-topped pies; ham, egg and cheese; ham and brie.

The University of Oklahoma cafeteria is offering a breakfast pizza featuring a crust made of dehydrated hash browns and eggs topped with bacon, cheese and peppers.

But thus far the nation's pizza giants, Domino's and Pizza Hut, are only considering joining the breakfast club. Domino's has test-marketed an item called Pizzam without much fanfare. Pizza Hut spokesman Roger Rydell had this to say: "We can imagine a personal pizza dough with an egg, bacon and green pepper mixture. We just haven't gotten there yet."

Meanwhile, McDonald's has revealed that it will not offer pizza products nationally until a full dinner menu is perfected. The world's leading fast food chain, which has been diversifying its offerings well beyond hamburgers in recent years, is serving pizza in about 500 of its 8,600 outlets at the moment.

As for No. 2 Burger King, a decision has been made to discontinue a joint effort with Domino's in which it sold the pizza take-out specialist's products in Columbia, S.C., units. But in Lafayette, Louisiana, it is test marketing Pizza Firenze products, which are available in six-inch single serve sizes at lunch time and in both six-inch and 12-inch sizes after 4 o'clock. Also offered is a pizza/salad combination meal.

More tests are expected to be carried out in other locations before a major rollout begins in the summer, according to sources. The strategy will reportedly be to merchandise Pizza Firenze from a restaurant within a restaurant, and not simply as a menu addition.

A brochure has been printed to help sell Burger King franchisees on the idea and persuade them to invest an estimated $20,000 in new equipment and incidentals. "Pizza is booming," it points out. "Burger King is entering the pizza category with a totally new brand name. We've created our own unique |identity' and |reason for being' for Pizza Firenze."

Interestingly, shortly before the new plans became public in December, a report in the trade journal Advertising Age suggested that the Grand Metropolitan PLC subsidiary would examine other means of adding pizza to its menu. It noted:

"Industry analysts for years have speculated (Burger King) would find a way to do that in conjunction with sister company Pillsbury Co., which markets the Totino's and Jeno's pizza brands."

PHOTO : ConAgra has joined the healthy pizza competition with the extension of its Healthy Choice brand into the frozen pizza sector. This 6.25-oz. (117g) French Bread Deluxe offering retails for $2.49.

PHOTO : McCain Ellio's vegetable-topped Healthy Slices range is being promoted as the first frozen pizza to be positioned as "healthy" in the USA market.

PHOTO : Pillsbury's upscale Pappalo's brand pizza is getting wider distribution following encouraging test market results. This Supreme variety is 92% fat free.

PHOTO : Addressing the upscale market is the Gourmet Master Choice label distributed by Compass Foods Inc., Montvale, N.J. This 18-oz. Spinach Pizza, which contains a rich blend of four different cheeses, sells for $3.99.

PHOTO : Stressing a "restaurant style" message in its packaging is Bravo Pizza. It is produced in Milford, Conn., from a 60-year-old family recipe.
COPYRIGHT 1992 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
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Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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