Sales in other categories may be suffering from the COVID crunch, but not pizza.
“COVID-19 brought sudden gains to the modestly growing pizza category in 2020,” noted market research firm Mintel’s recent report “Pizza Restaurants: Incl Impact of COVID-19 US, September 2020.”
“These gains are likely to have residual staying power over the next year as consumers rely on affordable and convenient meal solutions during a recession,” the report pointed out.
Mintel’s report further suggested that retailers “reinforce the value equations” with topping-loaded pies, bundling deals and a variety of experiences that “allow consumers to see that they are getting the most bang for their buck.”
During the lockdown period of March through June 2020, the initial re-emergence period beginning in July and the forecasted remainder of the re-emergence period through December 2021, takeout and delivery helped and will continue to help mitigate sales declines, Mintel reported.
These will continue to be important through the recovery period of 2022 through 2025.
“Pizza is widely considered an affordable treat and a welcomed comfort food,” the report said. “Consumers also like its shareability.”
Almost half of pizza restaurant consumers (45%) polled for the Mintel report said they prefer pizza over other restaurant foods during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those cravings are driven at least partially by nostalgia for better times.
Seventy-two percent of the consumers said, “I enjoy things that remind me of my past (e.g. childhood).” The report recommended that retailers focus their pizza marketing messages around this nostalgia and family-friendly meals that please parents and children alike.
At Kwik Trip and Kwik Star convenience stores, with 770 locations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois, 12% of gross profit dollars are attributed to house-made pizza, a category Paul Servais, the chain’s retail food service director, reported has grown throughout the pandemic. Lunch and dinner daypart sales of whole pies have experienced the most substantial growth, though grab-and-go slices throughout the day are still strong sellers, Servais said. Breakfast pizza, a 15-plus-year favorite, also continues to move well.
Mintel noted the majority of young consumers, particularly Gen Zers and millennials, agree restaurants should offer new pizza options during the pandemic to keep the menu exciting. Although sausage and pepperoni are the favorite go-to toppings at Kwik Trip and Kwik Star, the chain offers 15 flavors of take-and-bake pizza and six flavors of frozen pies with a wide array of crust and topping options.
Servais agreed with Mintel that he expects pizza sales to continue to flourish in the coming months. “We plan to continue growing our pizza business — all aspects of it,” he said.