Nearly two-thirds of pizza lovers who regularly buy frozen pizza and order it at a restaurant at least once a month are women, according to a national study of more than 1,000 pizza lovers conducted in May by Smart Flour Foods and the Center for Generational Kinetics.
Of these, 59% are 35 years or older – well beyond the typical college years, according to the study. What’s more, a whopping 68% of all pizza lovers exercise two or more times a week – completely debunking the myth that pizza is primarily eaten by consumers who are not worried about being healthy, said Sameer Shah, a co-author of the study and VP of marketing for Smart Flour Foods.
These findings are a wake-up call to manufacturers, retailers and restaurants that people buying pizza are not who they think and as a result, industry needs to reconsider how they make and market pizza, Shah told FoodNavigator-USA.
Lesson 1: Offer healthier pizza options
Based on the study findings, Shah said, “If I was a retailer, I would look to expand my offerings of healthier products, even in traditional categories like pizza, rather than continuing with … the standard pizzas that have a less healthy profile.”
To help fill the bill, Smart Flour Foods recently launched a new line of premium, gluten-free frozen pizzas with almost excessive amounts of rGBH-free mozzarella and provolone and uncured meats that are free of nitrates. The line includes chicken sausage, Tuscan inspired uncured two meat, and sundried tomato and escarole.
In addition, the crust, which is also sold by itself, is a gluten-free blend of ancient grains, including sorghum, amaranth, teff and quinoa, which is chewy and crispy like traditional crust, but more nutritious, Shah said.
He acknowledged the pizzas are still an indulgence, but they are one that consumers can feel better about and one that meets consumers’ increased interested in natural ingredients, as uncovered by the study.
Indeed, 77% of pizza lovers surveyed said natural ingredients are important to them when selecting frozen pizza and 60% said they try to avoid pizza with “unhealthy ingredients.” For 26-29% of the study participants, this includes synthetic hormones, high fructose corn syrup, trans fat, MSG, artificial sweeteners and artificial preservatives, according to the study.
Lesson 2: Tweak marketing to include women
Another major takeaway from the study is that manufacturers and restaurants should change their marketing to be more inclusive of women, Shah said.
“Pizza is heavily marketed around football or sporting events, which historically are more male-centric, and that could be a mistake” given that most people who buy pizza are women, Shah said.
More effective marketing used by Smart Flour Pizza concentrates on social media and online couponing, Shah said. He added in-store demonstrations and price promotions also are effective tools in the pizza category.
Lesson 3: Pizza lovers love to share
The study also revealed pizza lovers are big on sharing – a lesson that can influence marketing and product innovation, Shah said.
Specifically, the survey found 86% of pizza lovers recommended their favorite pizza to their friends and family.
Marketers can use this to their advantage by encouraging customers to post photos and testimonials of their pizza experiences on social media for discounts and prizes, according to the survey.
Smart Flour Foods is capitalizing on on consumers' desire to share pizza by creating a line of larger, conventional frozen pizzas that are rolling out to stores now. The new line, which includes margarita, pepperoni and Italian sausage, is 11.25 inches and sold at a lower price point, making it more accessible for families and easier to share.
“The conventional pizza is also a clean product free of artificial preservatives and synthetic hormones. The only difference is that the meat may or not be antibiotic free,” explained Shah.
Nonetheless, both the premium and conventional lines speak directly to consumer demands revealed in the study that many marketers have overlooked for years -- which could give Smart Flour Foods an edge over the competition.