Being among the top 10 most frequently consumed foods, it's no surprise frozen pizza is going from strength to strength in c-stores, with sales now starting to overtake last year's, growing by 1.6% in the first quarter of 2007, according to IRI data.
The sector has certainly seen its fair share of activity. Pizza Ristorante by Dr Oetker, which is growing by 17% year on year in the convenience market, is tapping into the rising demand for spicier foods with its new Piccante range, rrp £1.99. The range is being supported by a £1.5m campaign.
Dr Oetker UK head of marketing Matthew Wilson says: "Consumers crave spicier food, which is being reflected in the choice in chilled pizzas. By launching Ristorante Piccante we are delivering a restaurant-quality pizza range, but with a spicy taste that will appeal to a wide audience."
Goodfella's sales, meanwhile, hit £104m in April this year and the brand is growing at a rate of 17% year on year, with 32% value share of the £328m frozen pizza category, according to AC Nielsen data. The Goodfella's range spans all four sub-sectors of frozen pizza - deep pan with Deeply Delicious; thin and crispy with Delicia; kids/snacking with Solos; and premium with the La Bottega range.
Goodfella's is backing its Solos brand with a £3.5m marketing campaign this year, and in January it relaunched the Deeply Delicious range. The pizza dough now contains significantly less salt and no hydrogenated fats. It also created a selection of new toppings: Loaded Cheese, Pepperoni Perfecto, Chicken & Bacon Club and Meaty Mayhem.
Chicago Town is going down a different route and taking on the takeaway pizza companies with its Take Away range. Chicago Town brand manager Lisa Stoneley says: "The takeaway delivery market is nearly twice the size of the retail market, so it's a massive opportunity. Our strategy has been to look at how we can take the takeaway proposition and apply it to the frozen pizza market. It's all about taste so the minute you put Chicago Town Take Away in the oven it activates the fresh rising dough base."
Consumer research has shown that people prefer the taste of Chicago Town Take Away when compared with Pizza Hut and Dominos, and this has formed the focus of the brand's recent advertising campaign. And to compete even further with the pizza delivery chains, Chicago Town has launched a range of side orders - cheesy garlic bread, buffalo chicken wings, potato skins and dunk 'n' dip desserts, rrp £1.49.
"You can now get a pizza, side order and a dessert in the convenience sector for £5," says Stoneley. "The equivalent in Pizza Hut is £9 and £12 in Dominos."
The side order range has been trialled in Tesco and Asda, but Stoneley is expecting great things from convenience. "It's so perfect for people popping into a c-store on their way home on a Friday or Saturday night."
Like many sectors of frozen food, pizza hasn't escaped the drive to change perceptions of quality. Goodfella's senior brand manager Fiona O'Keeffe says: "The key to getting frozen foods back into growth is in getting consumers to realise that frozen products have the freshness frozen in and can deliver on taste. For example, our pizzas are frozen within minutes of being made - so that the freshness and flavour of the ingredients is locked in."
And there's more innovation expected this year. O'Keefe says: "The category will see an increased amount of convenient and handheld products over the coming year. To cater for demand in quality, expect to see more exciting bases, with cues taken from artisan bread trends, such as cheese/garlic/herb. Exotic ingredients and toppings will feature, as will different shapes and sizes."