Frozen Pizza Industry Acknowledges Singles Market
California Pizza Kitchen's "Pizza for One" frozen pizzas offer singles a smaller portion size option of the popular frozen pizza varieties.
CHICAGO: Move over family-size deluxe. There’s a new kid demanding space on the shelves in the frozen food aisle. Pizza for One is bucking the trend of jumbo and economy sizes. Offering smaller versions of the traditionally sized frozen pizza varieties, Pizza for One is out to conquer the frozen pizza market.
“I doubt that very much,” Patrick Carson, a programer who goes by PC chortled. “There's no conquering going on in the frozen pizza aisle. It’s just a marketing gimmick. They’re trying to get away with selling less but giving it a name which sounds like a good idea, when in fact they’re just selling less food for more money. Me? I’m sticking with the jumbo deluxe 2 for $10 pizza. More pizza for my buck, a better value. It’s like this (air quote) green movement (air unquote) all these cutbacks, companies eliminating stuff, cutting back, charging more, but they put on the socially acceptable and popular disclaimer of (air quote) going green (air unquote) and everyone's all smug and eager to pay more money for less product. No one's even proved there is a global warming problem but we’re all supposed to be so impressed when someone says a product is now (air quote) going green (air unquote). Going green only means one thing: Cheating the customer. Charging more money for less product. And us consumers pay the price. It might make us feel less guilty to buy a smaller pizza, but it costs more per bite and doesn’t fill you up.”
Tricia McMillian, a creative director and marketing manager, discovered the Pizza for One by accident and sees the marketing perspective differently, “I was picking up a box of Boca Burgers and furtively glanced over at the frozen pizza section. Boy was I surprised to see that someone finally discovered and acknowledged the true frozen pizza demographic: Single people. Yes, it costs more per ounce than the larger sizes, but I'm used to that. Single people traditionally get screwed in the wallet. We pay a higher percentage in income taxes, we pay more for travel - price tours and cruises as a single if you want a black and white example of financial discrimination against singles - it's just a fact of being single. I don't like it, but as a single person I have to accept it. The single serving portion size is at least a step in the right direction. At least we're being acknowledged. Hopefully this will lead to reduced pricing, too. Today frozen pizza. Tomorrow fair income tax rates.”
She does not share PC’s skepticism, “Just because we’re single and happen to partake in frozen pizza doesn’t mean we aren’t self, I mean weight conscious. Less pizza in the box means less pain on the ego, I mean weight on the hips.”
The frozen pizza market is segmented between high school babysitters, college students, football party hosts and single people. There is no concrete evidence that single people comprise the market share of frozen pizza sales, but Kortney Jenkins, a cashier at a local grocery had this to say during her cigarette break, “Single people. Total freaks and losers. No doubt. Single people. Except during football season, a lot of hot guys come in and stock up before football games. I get invited to a lot of their parties. But other than that, yeah, totally single people. I work the 4 to 11 on Fridays a lot. It’s like a freakfest in here. Frozen pizzas fly out of the freezer aisle. All these losers, like, come in on their way home from work. I turned 21 last year so they put me in the express checkout to speed up the line. The guys usually buy a six pack or two and a couple of the meat lovers frozen pizzas. They’re totally not picky, they even buy the store brands. The women are more willing to spend the big bucks. It’s their big treat of the week, their big Friday night celebration so they buy the expensive brands, the gourmet style. La dee dah. I guess they think it’s exotic or something. Ha! Losers. Wanna make a good impression on their cats! Sometimes they’ll buy a bottle of wine, usually they spend more money on the frozen pizza than their wine. The $5.99 on special bottles. What cracks me up is when they buy a pack of diet pop with it. It’s always diet pop. Like that’s gonna take off those pizza hips and butt. Losers. I’d kill myself if I ever ended up sitting home alone with a bunch of cats eating frozen pizza and diet pop on a Friday night. Gawd. Kill me now, you know?”
“Even though it's nice to be recognized and accommodated as a consumer, something us single people rarely see, there is a stigma to it,” Miss McMillian agrees. “I mean, it is frozen pizza. As excited as I was about the new smaller serving size, the ‘Pizza for One’ title blazing across the box does make me feel self conscious. They might as well call it, ‘That’s It, Show’s over Folks, Nothing Left to See Here’ pizza. Or ‘Frozen Pizza for Single People Who’ve Eaten a Few Too Many Regular Sized Frozen Pizzas.’ It’s bad enough to end up eating frozen pizza at all, but to have ‘Pizza for One’ staring back at me…well…it’s just, it’s validation of a single person’s deepest fears. I’m a single woman eating frozen pizza, alone. But, I’m working to get past that. I never meant for my life to turn out this way. I want to date interesting, intelligent, kind, humorous men and one day settle down, you know, get married, have children, eat three nutritious meals a day…I never intended to be eating frozen pizza at my age. I never in a million years thought I’d end up like this. I have a job, you know? A career. I have college degrees! I'm well traveled, I've seen a lot of the world. I have interests and a sense of humor. I’m a good person. I am human and I do need to be loved. This is not what I want for my life, this is not the way it’s supposed to be…” choking a sob and then taking a deep breath to regain composure, McMillian adds, “The smaller portion size is perfect for me.”
No conclusive data is yet available on the impact frozen Pizza for One will have on the traditional pizza market. In this pizza town, deep dish giants dominate the restaurant and take-out scene. Everyone has a favorite pizza place and local pies are elevated to forms of art.
Ronnie Donovan, the owner of a local pizza restaurant with stores and delivery in most of the metropolitan area believes it won’t affect his business. “Apples and oranges. People who eat frozen pizza are usually single and budget conscious. The home delivery market is families or people with friends – a social life – with more discriminating taste.”
Marco Donovan, a delivery boy for Ronnie, and also his nephew, says, “My uncle’s right in some respects. I do deliver to a lot of families and parties. But I deliver to a surprising number of single people, too. The thing is, there’s no way to get an accurate count because a lot of single people who order pizza pretend to be having a party or pretend their significant other is on the way over. I know for a fact a lot of times the only significant other is a cat or dog. Single women have cats, single guys have dogs. We have a two for one deal and I’ve seen guys give the second pizza to their dog. The women, though, hey won’t let the cats near it.”
When asked about the misrepresentation of social involvement, PC scoffed. "Why would I pretend? I don't need to impress a pizza delivery guy. Frozen is just easier, faster, cheaper."
However, Miss McMillian had this to say, “Oh geeze. How embarrassing. Yes. Yes. Okay? Yes. I’ve pretended to be on the phone talking to ‘my boyfriend’ who’s ‘on his way over’ when the pizza delivery guy arrives. I used to turn up the stereo and step out into the hall when the delivery guy arrived. I pretended to be having a party. I know. I know. It’s stupid and embarrassing. I know. But it’s stupid and embarrassing to be a single person ordering pizza, too…” indignity turning to somber solace, “it’s a manifestation of denial. To openly embrace and admit that you’re alone and ordering delivered pizza, especially two for one, you have to accept that you are in fact single, alone and ordering pizza. Two pizzas. Consequently frozen pizza is easier on the single’s psyche. Though, I um, well, I do the fake phone call thing with frozen pizza sometimes, too. When I’m standing line I’ll pretend to call someone and leave a message on ‘their’ voice mail. The script goes like this, “Hi, it’s me. I had a really rough day at work, that client intake meeting was horrible. I’m beat and I’ve got to work all weekend on the budget proposal so I’m just going to grab a pizza and stay in tonight and keep up the momentum of the project. If I get that proposal done maybe we can go out tomorrow night.’ I know it’s ridiculous and who cares what the cashier with the neon purple nail polish and stupid white trash stamp cliché thorny rose in a heart tattoo on her ankle thinks? But it salves the already wounded ego. I mean, let’s face it, no one wants to be eating frozen pizza alone on a Friday night. Those fake phone calls give single people a little dignity.”
But what of pride with the Pizza for One? On a trip to an area grocery on a recent Friday night we found the frozen pizza section to be one of the busier in the store. However many of the patrons buying frozen pizza refused comment. Brock Williams, a shopper in the chilled beer section, had this to say about his fellow shoppers in the frozen pizza aisle, “Yeah, I eat it sometimes. A bunch of us guys will have ‘em if we’re watching a college game. Something about college football makes you hungry for frozen pizza. Guess it reminds you of being in college. Sunday and Monday night games, though, you get the real thing delivered.” When asked about Friday night, Mr. Williams chuckled, “No one but losers eats frozen pizza on a Friday night. Ugly single women. The guys who work with computers and live in their parents’ basement. Those kinds of people. There’s never any hot chicks over there. It’s as bad as the cat food aisle.”
“It does perpetuate the negative stereotype and validate the worst fears of single people,” Dr. Brig Meiers confirmed. “Not only is it frozen pizza, it’s Pizza for One. Whoa boy. No pussyfooting around there. Pizza. For one. Not two. Not family sized. For one. Frozen, no less. Might as well come with a loaded gun or a bonus topping of cyanide. It’s that much of a slap in the face to single peoples’ already wounded pride and low self esteem.”
Dr. Meiers continues, “Though from a physical standpoint, as a doctor I do have to congratulate the frozen pizza industry for offering smaller versions of their popular frozen pizzas. If single people can get past the social stigma and embrace the Pizza for One concept, they’ll ultimately gain in health what they lose in pride. And who knows? Maybe by reducing their portion size they’ll shed a few pounds, lower their cholesterol and blood pressure and be more attractive to members of the opposite sex.” So, Pizza for One could lead to tea for two?
“That would be great, wouldn’t it? But, har har, it is still frozen pizza. We can’t expect miracles.”
The frozen pizza market is as complex as society itself, it seems.
Ms. McMillian concurs. “I hate myself for falling into the cliché of a single person sitting home alone eating frozen pizza. But just because I’m single and occasionally partake in a frozen pizza doesn’t mean I don’t care about my health. With the regular sized frozen pizzas, and especially delivered pizzas, temptation to overindulge is high. It takes a lot of will power to not pick away at it until it’s all gone. So the smaller sizes are better in the long run, even if the name does twist a knife into a painful wound. I long for the day when anyone can hold their head high when they buy a frozen pizza, the day when there’s no barrier, no shame, no social indignity in the freezer aisle. Or until I find a man willing to spend time with me on a Friday night. But until then, there’s Pizza for One.”
Labels: Pizza for One