"We wanted people to feel great about eating pasta again and to have as many pasta nights as you want. The same thing is true with what we’re trying to do with pizza," Mike Tarullo, chief operating office at Banza, told FoodNavigator-USA.
Since launching its pizza product line (which includes frozen pizza crust and topped frozen pizzas) in October 2020, Banza has become the fastest-selling frozen pizza crust brand in the grocery channel. Since January 2021, Banza has sold two pizzas every minute, claims the company.
Banza's frozen topped pizzas have also been highly incremental to retailers' frozen pizza section, which aside from cauliflower-based brands and a handful of other gluten-free options, is an area of the store that's still ripe for better-for-you disruption, notes Tarullo.
"If you went maybe five years ago, you wouldn’t have found any better-for-you pizza at all. What everyone is looking for is that delicious crispy crust and doughy center pizza-like experience that makes you want to come back for more. A better-for-you product still needs to deliver that experience," Tarullo told FoodNavigator-USA.
"It's [Banza frozen pizza] been 80% incremental. Of that, 50% are brand new [to the category] – that’s who we’re most excited about. That means we’re providing a meal solution that they weren’t able to find before," Tarullo told FoodNavigator-USA, adding that the other 30% of consumers are now buying more frozen pizza than they did before.
For the company's full portfolio including its shelf-stable boxed chickpea pasta, rice, and mac and cheese, Banza has grown at a CAGR of 88% from 2017-2020.
In 2020, the chickpea pasta category grew 75%, with Banza, the #1 brand, accounting for 70% of that growth. Banza is also the #1 growing pasta brand in the US, driving more growth in the total pasta category than any other brand, according to the company.
"Our sales are still higher [in 2021] than they were during the pandemic," added Tarullo.
Banza pasta products are sold in 17,000 stores nationwide whereas its frozen topped pizzas and pizza crusts are currently in a few thousand, but rapidly growing, said Tarullo.
Oath Pizza swaps out cauliflower for chickpea crust
"Over the last couple of years, we’ve been really excited to start getting into foodservice. When you’re introducing an unfamiliar food to someone like pasta or pizza made out of chickpeas, one of the best things you can do is to introduce it in a familiar context with preparations consumers know and love already," said Tarullo.
Working with Oath Pizza, which has over 50 locations in the Northeastern US region, Banza will be presented on the menu as a pizza crust option for customers, replacing the chain's cauliflower crust option.
Although some industry sources have said consumers will stick with at-home cooking and eating habits as the world opens back up, Tarullo believes that consumers are ready to gather with friends and family again, and that the foodservice industry is beginning to rebuild as result.
"From a consumer behavior perspective, we're already seeing that people want to go out and be with other people and often that means in restaurants."
According to recent consumer data from DoorDash, orders for cheese pizza surged 362% in the first half of 2021 compared to last year as consumers start to gather in larger groups over a shared meal.
"Banza is the perfect addition to Oath's 100% feel-good menu featuring thoughtfully-sourced toppings and wholesome, fresh produce. Banza's chickpea pizza crust meets our high-standards for taste and texture, and uniquely satisfies the dietary needs of our vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free guests," said Drew Kellogg, CEO at Oath Pizza.