Frozen pizza: a powerful and popular performer in tough times.
With unemployment hitting double digits and consumer confidence sliding, families have sought ways to stretch their food dollars. U.S. consumers have made changes, but when it comes to matters of diet they have preferred incremental adjustments over wholesale elimination. Frozen pizza has been a front line performer in the menu modifications many American families have made.
Over the past 18 months, there has been a decided trend for Americans to eat more meals at home. However, having less money available to spend on food has not translated into more time to cook it, so those choosing to eat at home have sought the most convenient and frugal ways of doing so. Pizza has proven an excellent option for at-home dining with almost two out of three American households reporting eating frozen pizza. Prominent in all grocery stores and present in most convenience and drug stores as well, frozen pizza is readily available for easy pick-up in all well-travelled consumer pathways. The easy storage makes it simple to keep on hand. It is a snap to prepare and rivals any other food for serving ease. Not only convenient, pizza offers the win-win of meeting the parent's desire to serve something hot, while being a popular choice of even the pickiest young eater. A restaurant-style or restaurant-quality pizza prepared and eaten at home meets the consumer's need to economize without much compromise.
The economy has affected consumer consideration of cost, but it has not dampened consumer concern about health. The frozen pizza industry has responded to consumer nutrition concerns by increasing the number of healthy pizza options available. Choices including whole and multi-grain thin crusts, low sodium, moderate and all-natural cheese content, vegetable toppings and all-natural sauces have helped keep pizza a popular option for the most health discriminating preparer and vegetarian sensitive consumer. Mothers continue to control between 85 percent to 90 percent of the household spending on everyday items such as groceries, so they remain the primary diet-deciders for the family. Many morns count the popular pizza as a valuable weapon in their health arsenal because they have discovered that most kids will eat vegetables when clustered on top of pizza that they would otherwise reject if it were served isolated on a plate. While not yet prevalent in the freezer case, the development of the fruit topped dessert pizza provides a similar assist to parents striving to get more fruit in their charges.
While the economy appears to shrink consumer options, frozen pizza companies have countered by expanding consumer choices, making continual health and taste modifications to their products. Crust choices now range from thin and crispy for the carb-aware to the expanded ethnic varieties using flatbreads, naan and tortillas as the foundation of the pizza. Also, playing off the regional differences in pizza styles--New York, Chicago, California and St. Louis--have given a geographic flavor to pizza options. Toppings offer infinite variety, ranging from the most basic cheese-only to the loaded gourmet with upscale ingredients, including international flavors like Mexican, Sicilian and Southwest.
Many economists are predicting America's financial picture will remain precarious throughout 2010 and possibly well into 2011. As they did before the recession, the frozen pizza industry continues to offer American consumers good value for their money, a quality product providing healthy choices and tasty options, and a convenient meal that accommodates the clockless U.S. lifestyle.
By Kraig R. Naasz, President and CEO of the American Frozen Food Institute