It may just be the ultimate convenience food. Frozen pizza offers quick preparation, speedy cleanup and, with the correct healthy toppings, a complete meal. What’s not to love? These attributes contributed to increased frozen pizza sales during the Great Recession (between 2007 and 2009), as consumers reined in restaurant spending and opted for ready-made frozen pies baked in their home ovens. But with economic recovery, or maybe just recession fatigue, shoppers have begun opening their wallets and heading back to the pizza parlor, which is taking a bite out of the frozen category.
Natural frozen pizza retail sales slid 8 percent from $25.3 million to $23.2 million in the 52 weeks ending July 9, according to Schaumburg, Ill.-based market research firm SPINS. Overall, the future looks similarly stormy. Mintel forecasts continued shrinkage, with an estimated 4.7 percent drop between 2012 and 2016.
A slightly better economy isn’t the only factor challenging growth. An aging American population is also to blame. While Mintel reports that consumers between the ages of 15 and 24 are most likely to stock up on frozen pizza offerings, U.S. Census Bureau data show that group is growing in numbers at a much slower rate than those entering older age groups.
To entice shoppers to revisit frozen pizza, manufacturers must up the flavor ante. More than convenience, these consumers want pies that taste like the high-end offerings found in now-popular gourmet pizza restaurants. Luckily for retailers, that’s just what the latest frozen offerings are trying to achieve.