Versatility, Convenience Driving Pizza Occasions

Pizza consumption continues to rise. More than four in 10 (41%) of consumers polled said they’re now eating pizza once a week, compared to 26% just two years ago. Pizza consumption has increased over the past two years as leading players revamp menus to include more innovative specialty pizzas, gourmet ingredients and items beyond pizza that help operators drive traffic. The results were unveiled in Technomic’s “Pizza Consumer Trend Report.”

As increased consumer confidence leads some to trade up within the pizza category, others still feeling the pinch are attracted to the special offers and coupons that chains are rolling out, as well as generally less expensive, yet high quality, take-and-bake and frozen pizza offerings.

“Consumers increasingly view pizza as the ‘go-to’ food when they don’t feel like cooking,” said Technomic’s Executive Vice President Darren Tristano. “Operators can emphasize convenience in their marketing message, positioning pizza as an easy, convenient and affordable meal solution. It’s a message that resonates with many customers.”

Pizza gets personal
For Save Time convenience stores in Jackson County, Mich., pizza has developed into art. At each of the company’s five stores, pizza pies are made to order from fresh ingredients, including homemade dough and blended cheeses, and then cooked for seven minutes in a stone-slab pizza oven that operates on natural gas.

“What is unusual about our process is that we do everything from scratch,” said Kris Mullikin, general manager of Save Time stores. Save Time uses proprietary recipes that the chain’s owner created more than 20 years ago and eschews processed ingredients.

“We get raw meats and season and cook them. We receive blocks of cheese, and we cut them up and mix them,” Mullikin said. “Our dough is traditional and hand-tossed. Our sauce and dough are made from scratch every day. In my opinion, this makes it more authentic and less of a cookie-cutter pizza.”
Cultivating a loyal following doesn’t happen without effort, even if your pizza is perfect. Promotions and advertising are mandatory tools for every successful pizza operation.

To remind shoppers about Save Time pizza, Mullikin distributes coupons at various points throughout the year, such as customer appreciation day. The coupon typically gives customers $1 off their next pizza or a complimentary order of bread sticks when they purchase a pizza.

Consumers Crave Pizza
All pizza purchases have increased over the past two years, but carryout and dine-in pizza occasions have increased the most; 68% of consumers now order carryout pizza once a month or more, followed by 45% who said they order pizza for dine-in.

To help operators and others aligned with the foodservice industry more effectively identify opportunities for growth and gain a competitive advantage, Technomic developed the “Pizza Consumer Trend Report.” Interesting findings include:
• More than 49% of consumers are purchasing pizza from a convenience store or    supermarket once a month, making it the second leading foodservice source for pizza, surpassed only by pizza restaurants (71%).
• Combo-meat varieties and calzone-style stuffed pizzas stand out as growth areas at fast-food restaurants. At full-service restaurants, there has been slight growth in the number of veggie/garden and combo-meat pizzas.
• Chicken’s adaptability contributes to its widespread use as the top listed protein topping in the full-service segment and third most-frequently listed protein in limited-service, largely due to barbeque and Buffalo chicken varieties.
• The latest menu trends call for authenticity, from Neapolitan, Sicilian and other regional Italian interpretations, to depth-of-flavor preparations, such as hearth-baked, wood-fired, coal and brick-oven cooking.

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