May 30, 2012

Sales of Kosher Frozen Pizza Continue to Impress

NEW YORK -- Almost every Jewish neighborhood that has a sizeable kosher clientele also has a kosher pizza store. According to some sources, there are as many as 500 kosher pizza stores in the US alone. But even more impressive is the notion that almost every kosher home, certainly families with younger children, will also have frozen pizza in the freezer. In a survey of several retailers, it appears that sales of the frozen pizza have grown by nearly 10% - 15% over the last five years with some stores putting the number at closer to 20%. Estimates of kosher frozen pizza sales nationwide ranged from $4 million to as much as $7 million with one distributor even quoting $8-$9 million. So successful has the category become that grocery freezers are now crowded with several brands, customers preferring some over others. For baby boomers, the sight of so many kosher pizza brands is a far cry from the Chopsie’s brand, named after one of the original kosher pizza stores, which was located in Crown Heights. Amnon Levy, famous for his Amnon’s brand, started producing the frozen pizza 16 years ago out of his well-known Boro Park store. Today, his frozen pizza is produced in many different varieties and distributed in stores and supermarkets throughout the country by a network of 12 distributors.  

When the late Rabbi Mayer Mendelsohn, a holocaust survivor, opened his pizza store in 1969 in Boro Park, he never dreamt that his pizza would also branch out to the frozen sections of stores all over the country. A renowned Talmudic scholar, Rabbi Mendelsohn became known for his attention to taste, a feature inherited by his sons and now his grandchildren. Mendelsohn’s launched its frozen brand in 1989, and now manufactures a line of frozen kosher foods out of a 33,000 square foot facility in Avenel NJ. In addition to its nationwide distribution to retailers, Mendelsohn’s has also significantly increased its foodservice business in recent years. Eddie Fishbaum of Jerusalem II Pizza fame is back on shelves after a hiatus of a few years with his brand of Eddie’s. Eddie was known as the consummate kosher pizza maker, flying his pizzas all over the world. Other brands that curry favor with shoppers are Macabees that also features its signature pizza bagels. Yakov Yarmove of SuperValu attributes the growth of the frozen pizza to the economy when many families “moved to convenience foods to feed their families.”  Elie Klein of Brooklyn’s renowned upscale Pomegranate kosher supermarket says that Mendelsohn’s, J-2 and Amnon’s are leading sellers with frozen pizza sales in his store growing by 10% to 15% in the last three years.   

For those who think of pizza as a high fat food, the pizza makers have branched out to low-fat and whole wheat. So how long should shoppers keep the frozen pizza in the fridge? “A year,” says Sol Levy of Amnon. For best taste, “3-6 months,” says Heshie of Mendelsohn’s. Many retail stores advise somewhere in between 6 months to a year. One retailer said: “If they ask I tell them to throw out the pizza before Passover.” Nor has the dramatic growth of frozen pizza been reserved for kosher only. According to market research firm Mintel, more than 1,100 new frozen pizza products were introduced from 2005 to 2009. More than 33% of U.S. individuals consume frozen pizza at least once every two weeks, according to a Tyson Foods presentation at the latest National Frozen Pizza Institute conference.