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Frozen pizza sales near $1.3 billion, as category is among retail's top ten.

The economic recession in the USA may have cooled down orders from pizza restaurants, but it has apparently heated up annual frozen pizza sales. A.C. Nielsen Scan-Trak data garnered from major retailers put volume at $1.292 billion during the 52-week period ending last May 16. That's a solid 6.1% ahead of the previous year's mark.

Pointing out that frozen pizza is among the 10 fastest growing supermarket categories, Advertising Age recently ranked the leading brands. Tombstone headed the list with a market share of 17.2% on sales of $221.7 million (up 15.2%). However, Schwan's Sales Enterprises, Inc. is actually the country's top producer if one combines sales of its Tony's and Red Baron brands. They respectfully recorded sales of $158.4 million and $137.3 million, with market shares of 12.3% and 10.6%.

Advertising Age noted: "Kraft General Foods' Tombstone continues to expand distribution and solidify its position as the top-selling pizza brand, while Pillsbury's Totino's -- which staged a major comeback two years ago -- gained share with its popular-price family pizzas."

On the foodservice front, industry analysts estimate that pizza restaurant sales during the first half of 1992 fell some 7% over the first six months of last year. Pizza Hut, the market leader, reported that second quarter results for company-owned outlets in the United TABULAR DATA OMITTED States were off by 1%. Parent company PepsiCo said that this reflected "declines in traditional units partly offset by growth in delivery units."

In a bid to bolster customer counts, Pizza Hut is seriously thinking about expanding its menu to include poultry products. It is now test marketing marinated and rotisserie-cooked chicken recipes.

Not surprisingly, this has ruffled the feathers of many in sister fast food restaurant company Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). Squawked one disgruntled franchisse: "It's bad enough that this is another source of competition for us, but worse that it's our own parent company that is doing it to us."

Jake Richards, president of the Association of KFC Franchisees, dashed off a letter to members that read, in part, "This is a grave threat to our businesses, and we are appalled that PepsiCo would let it happen."

Meanwhile, frozen pizza makers continue to launch new products that appeal to budget-minded consumers shying away from restaurants. Just in time for the summer cookout season, in July McCain Ellio's launched Pizza with BBQ Sauce in grocery and convenience stores in the Eastern USA and Florida.

Noting that the product is the first frozen pizza made to be cooked directly on an outdoors barbecue grill as well as in a conventional oven indoors, Ellio's President Gene Wilka said that taste panel tests for the pizza resulted in "the highest response level ever."

The Lodi, N.J.-based company packs the pizza in three 7.5-inch varieties: cheese, beef and chicken. The former retails for $1.79 to $1.99, while the beef and chicken offerings go for $2.29 to $2.49.

US Frozen Pizza Makers Could Lose $48 Million

Frozen pizza manufacturers serving the US school foodservice market are now facing competition from makers of non-frozen meat-topped pizza products, thanks to an act of Congress. Previously suppliers of so-called fresh pizza could sell only to schools and other state-run, non-profit institutions if production took place under federal inspection.

Just how big a market could open up to non-frozen pizza makers is unknown. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service estimates that out of the 4 billion meals served last year under the National School Lunch Program, approximately 20% included pizza. And roughly three-quarters was topped with meat.

A USDA official speculated that the new inspection exemption policy will bring "some shift in sales in the school lunch market from frozen to fresh pizzas. The eventual magnitude of the shift will be determined by price, student preference and availability (not all schools will have access to non-frozen product). Based on the agency's analysis, the likely shift in sales is estimated to be $36 million to $48 million."
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Title Annotation:includes related article
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Oct 1, 1992
Previous Article:Private label products get on board as frozen egg substitute category rolls.
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