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Winning The Pizza Battle Can Be Easy As Pie For Independent Grocers

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by Jim Dudlicek / NGA Director, Communications and External Affairs

“The pizza battle is on, and grocery stores are winning.”

So declares Dana Baggett, client strategy director in the restaurant division at market researcher Vericast, whose recent study of consumers’ pizza preferences suggests inflation is pushing folks to swap their takeout apps for their grocer’s frozen section.

That sounds like good news, but it takes more than one battle to win a war, and there’s plenty more that grocery retailers can do to reclaim and defend territory gained during the pandemic, which is already slipping away.

According to the Vericast study as published by The Shelby Report, 40 percent of consumers actually have no preference when choosing a pizza place, despite the dominance of the top four takeout chains. (As a native of the Chicago metro area, I’d suggest that number does not reflect my home turf, where folks are incredibly choosy about their pizza – but I digress.) Further, 13 percent of recent pizza restaurant customers are opting for frozen or other non-restaurant pizza.

Meanwhile, over the past two years, retailers have increased their frozen pizza brand promotions 214 percent, driving an 11 percent growth in category sales.

But why stop there? A key component of many independent grocers’ fresh perimeters is pizza, elevating the experience with in-store brick ovens, fresh-made dough and premium toppings, or enhancing convenience with fresh pizzas made to be finished in your oven at home. (Check out some great examples of independent grocers’ pizza programs here and here and here.)

Much like offering consumers a choice of in-store, online, pickup and delivery for their shopping needs, folks’ desire for pizza can also run in the direction of “we want what we want when we want it.” And the grocer that can anticipate and fulfill as many of these dynamic needs as they can is better equipped to win out over a chain restaurant in terms of quality and value.

Supermarkets and restaurants are both fighting inflation, so why not use the same tactics to help consumers satisfy their desire for pizza and well as a good deal? After all, according to the Vericast study, 64 percent of consumers surveyed think rising prices are making restaurant dining too expensive, yet 41 percent think it’s not necessarily cheaper to eat at home.

So, if coupons and discounts help consumers choose between restaurants (nearly 60 percent of Vericast respondents say they’re the deciding factor), the same ought to be true for supermarkets in the hunt for mealtime values.

Coupons and BOGOs aren’t just for the freezer case – work up promotions for your take-and-bake and prepared pizza programs. Offer samples to stimulate trial. Create occasion-based offers, like slice-and-a-drink meals for lunch, whole-pie-and-liter-pop deals for dinner, and pizza and wings combos for game days and parties.

Be strategic and delicious, and your pizza may start winning preference surveys over the national takeout chains.

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