After chocolate, pizza ranks as the top comfort food for American consumers, a recent survey conducted by the Harris Poll found.
During the tightest of the recent economic times, consumers tended to go for the frozen or refrigerated options found in supermarkets, according to Mintel market research. “But as the economy continues to improve, albeit slowly, consumers appear to be opting for more expensive restaurant/takeout/delivery pizza options instead,” Mintel reported.
In a November 2015 survey, Mintel found that 86% of respondents had eaten, picked up or had pizza delivered from a foodservice channel in the past three months. Of men who responded, 96% fell in the age bracket of 18-34. The percentage of females aged 18-34 were almost identical—95%.
Twenty-three percent of the total respondents said they had eaten pizza from a convenience store. More than half of that 23% were males.
Not surprisingly, pizza has become a strong item in many prepared food programs operated by convenience retailers.
The cases of pizza crust and dough shipped to convenience stores from foodservice broadline distributors increased by 27% in the 52 weeks ending Feb. 28, 2015, compared to the same period in 2014, while servings of pizza ordered by convenience store customers increased by more than 20%, according to NPD Group data.
Despite the gradual belt loosening, price remains a top priority for pizza consumers (60%), Mintel said. Coupons and loyalty programs (46%) are most likely to motivate. Customizable personal size pizzas (44%) and combination deals, such as bundling with soda (41%), were also popular motivators.
Also, almost half of those polled said they had ordered online.
Iowa State University has Godfather’s Express locations in three of its on-campus convenience stores. The pizzas are made on-site from dough that the stores proof, sauce, top and bake in a convection oven, said Carl Chumos, the school’s foodservice manager.
Two of the stores offer both whole pies (14-inch) and slices for grab and go, while the third store does personal size (seven-inch) pies.
Breakfast pizza does well on the campus starting from when the stores first open in the morning. Chumos estimated that each of the two stores that sell by the slice probably go through about a dozen of the eight-count-slice pies between 7:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
Pizza also sells consistently well throughout the day, even after dinner until the stores close at 11 p.m. or midnight. Chumos said that customers respond particularly well to special deals, which may be a discount price on two pies or a pie bundled with a beverage or a side.
He was surprised to discover that one favorite pairing is pizza with French fries.
To make it even quicker and easier for customers to feed their craving for pizza, two of the stores have implemented online ordering options. The campus store is also considering delivery service in the near future.
Stay tuned to Convenience Store Decisions‘ March issue, where we delve into 38 in-store categories to identify emerging trends and garner retailer analysis to forecast what operators can expect for 2016 and beyond.