Making pizza at home gained popularity during the pandemic, when consumers craved comfort foods and sought out fun home activities. It’s still popular, and retailers can capitalize on this by pushing pizza ingredients stocked in the deli department.
Gathering in the kitchen to shape pizza dough, layer on sauce and cheese and toppings, then bake the creation to a crisp, is an activity friends and family enjoy.
“They could be making pizza dough from flour, but sometimes they don’t want to make dough from scratch at home,” says Jim Viti, vice president of marketing/product development for DeIorio’s Frozen Dough in Utica, NY. “Our dough ball takes the mess away, but you still take ownership because you created and baked it at home.”
DeIorio’s frozen dough is individually bagged and wrapped, and has a four-day refrigerated shelf life. Grocery stores thaw the dough balls and sell them near specialty cheeses or at the deli counter. They also market a grab-and-go product of two DeIorio’s dough balls and two tomato sauces.
Classic, chickpea, broccoli and cauliflower are some of DeIorio’s dough flavors. “The most recent flavor we developed is the hemp dough ball. Sweet potato is my favorite; it works as a regular dough or a special dough around the holidays,” Viti says.
CHEESE, SAUCE AND TOPPING IT OFF
Pizza wouldn’t be pizza without rich tomato sauce and melted cheese on top. Pomi USA turns tomatoes grown in Northern Italy, plus salt, oregano and olive oil, into a smooth velvety sauce. Grocery stores sell it as a chef’s table product.
“We use only 100% Italian tomatoes,” says Ilarili Bonucchi, marketing manager for Pomi USA in New York. “The tomato season harvest is beginning in August and goes until September/October. Just a few hours after they are harvested, our tomatoes are processed into sauce to keep the freshness.”
Retailers can stock Pomi USA’s 14.1-ounce cans of sauce and 13.8-ounce carton brick (box) of fresh tomatoes. “Our tomatoes work on any dough. You can also try our tomato sauce on focaccia or with sausage from Italy,” Bonucchi says.
And let’s not forget the cheese. Losurdo Foods, Inc., Hackensack, NY, makes two kinds of cheese for pizza. The first is a standard low moisture mozzarella cheese called Fresh Caprese, which comes in a block or shredded in a bag. The second is a whole milk or part skim, high-moisture mozzarella cheese.
“A supermarket deli can use a low moisture cheese, that is the standard for pizza by the slice. If you want an artisan feel, you will need to use higher moisture fresh mozzarella,” says Jill Falgiano, culinary chef and national sales director for Losurdo Foods. Falgiani trained at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in France.
Losurdo follows recipes from Italy’s Capri region for its mozzarella. It produces the cheese in upstate New York from cow’s milk. To ensure quality, Losurdo belongs to a certain co-op for the cows, which is proprietary. The company says the dough should be handled just as carefully.
“For pizza, the cheese and crispness of the dough are key. You want a dough that is agile the temperature, as well. The oven can be from 550 up to 900 degrees F, so it is important for the staff to understand the different doughs to use. True Neopolitan pizza requires a certain kind of dough made from double zero flour, and a certain kind of cheese, fresh mozzarella,” Falgiano says.
Toppings can include chopped vegetables, Italian cured meats and salami. “Our pepperoni and cooked Italian sausage comes in two 5-pound bags to a case,” says Karen Basso, national sales manager for Pocino Foods Co., located in City of Industry, CA. “We do more foodservice because our packaging isn’t really small.”
The company’s meats are found on pizzas sold behind the counter for foodservice and in the hot case or by the slice.
PIZZA CRUSTS FOR FOODSERVICE
Several pizza manufacturers focus on foodservice in addition to retail. Encino, CA-based Caulipower launched its cauliflower crust pizza in 2017 and disrupted the retail frozen pizza category.
“The industry never saw the growth and demand coming,” says Gail Becker, founder and CEO of Caulipower. “They thought the only people who would buy it are people who have celiac disease. But a whole lot of people decided they wanted to eat gluten-free for all kinds of reasons.”
ItalCrust makes wood-fired pizza crust that supermarket delis carry behind the counter for in-store baking and in the refrigerator for take-and-bake at home.
“We use the highest quality, most authentic, cleanest dough,” says Mark Snyder, national foodservice sales manager for ItalCrust in Newton, MA. “We have a massive wood-fired oven. We make rounds from 8 in to 16 inches, and we make flatbread, too.”
ItalCrust sticks to the variety it has perfected. “We make one flavor: soft wheat flour. But we do it on a national, commercial scale. If a pizzeria made this, it would cost them 10 times the cost,” Snyder says.
The pandemic led to changes, including supply chain issues and labor shortages. ItalCrust saw business boom because its product eliminates the labor involved in making and proofing dough.
MARKETING AND MERCHANDISING
Merchandising methods for pizza go beyond bundling ingredients at the deli. Savvy makers of pizza ingredients now use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok. Consumers may see website ads for frozen dough, decide to try making pizza and buy the necessary ancillary items.
Pomi USA offers online grocery store coupons with special themes, and advertises in the main stores. “There are three main seasons for our tomato sauce: spring because you picnic in the park, summer because you celebrate tomato harvesting, and winter because it is the holidays and you try new recipes. Pizza is the most social food you can share with your friends,” says Bonucchi.
Losurdo recommends placing its block of low moisture cheese in the deli case near the pizza kits. Its high moisture cheese is best sold pre-sliced and pre-portioned, near grab-and-go products. The company also makes frozen pizza dough in flavors that include blonde wheat, beer craft (with a hoppy flavor) and malted (popular in Boston). Dough buns range from 4 to 30 ounces, with the largest size popular for delis that sell pizza by the slice.
“The dough goes from the freezer to the fridge. The supermarket deli takes the dough out and proofs it. With the economy the way it is, you want pizza making to be simple and easy. The key with our dough is that it is easy to store, thaw and use,” says Falgiano of Losurdo.
HEALTHY DOUGH, HEALTHY EATING
Companies that make pizza ingredients continue to satisfy American’s desire to eat healthy food made from clean components.
“We have a natural uncured pepperoni with no nitrites and no chemicals. Healthy eaters prefer no nitrites. Everybody loves pepperoni; it is just a matter of if they want regular or want to spend the extra money for natural,” says Basso of Pocino Foods Co.
DeIorio’s makes an organic dough, a gluten-free dough and a private label keto dough for foodservice. Losurdo makes Bel Capri fresh pizza buns in better-for-you options of wheat and multi-grain, which it says people can digest better.
Pomi has a dedicated line of organic tomato sauces. ItalCrust has a gluten-free crust, made in a different factory, which has won the National Restaurant Association’s FABI Award (Best in Class in Innovation).
Becker of Caulipower originally created her gluten-free cauliflower pizza for her sons, who have celiac disease. “But we do not market it as gluten-free. We market it as great pizza that happens to be gluten-free. Because no matter your reason for eating it—low calorie, great-tasting, gluten-free—we can all share the same pizza,” she says.
Caulipower has since created other gluten-free foods—but not a broccoli crust. “Not many people want to eat a green pizza. The beautiful thing about cauliflower crust is it looks like real pizza and tastes like regular pizza. But we are always innovating, it is our heartbeat, so certainly stay tuned,” Becker says.
MAKING THE DELI A PIZZA DESTINATION
Making pizza behind the supermarket deli counter draws in customers by the aroma. Retailers can also try something unique, like making pizza on flatbread.
“Flatbreads are trending; this is a significant growth area. Flatbreads appeal to younger diners. And in restaurants, there is a perception you can go out of the box with flatbread. Mexican restaurants put Mexican toppings on flatbread, other restaurants do pulled pork,” says Snyder of ItalCrust.
With every pizza ingredient, quality matters.
Falgiano of Losurdo says dough balls need great flavor and an outer crispness. “You don’t want pizza dough to taste like bread,” she says.
“We educate consumers on the raw materials used. Our 100% Italian tomatoes are BPA and GMO free. We have chopped tomatoes, finely chopped tomatoes, fresh tomatoes. You can put that on pizza with oil and garlic powder, and you are done,” says Bonucchi of Pomi USA.