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Thursday, Jun 1, 2023

Healthy Pizza in the Freezer?

A letter arrived in the offices of Real Good Foods Co. from an 8-year-old boy praising the company’s frozen pizza for its health effects. The boy, a Type 1 diabetic, said the pizza made by the Glendale company did not make his blood sugar go high. “Thank you for making good food that I can eat,” he wrote. For Bryan Freeman, chief executive of Real Good Foods, receiving the letter was life changing. “It personally made me feel that for the first time in my career I was doing something meaningful and having an impact on other people’s lives,” Freeman said. While his company is not yet a household name, that is Freeman’s ambition for Real Good Foods. The pizza extolled by the young fan is available at more than 5,000 retail stores across the United States, including in the San Fernando Valley region at Ralphs, Vitamin Shoppe and GNC Holdings Inc. locations. The pizza is also sold at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and through Amazon.com Inc. and the company’s website. What makes Real Good frozen pizzas different from competing brands is the crust made from a combination of chicken breast and Parmesan cheese. This crust contributes to the pizza’s nutritional profile of low in carbohydrates and high in protein. And that, Freeman said, satisfies an unmet need for consumers who want healthier and cleaner ingredients in their pizzas. “There was not a solution (previously available) for someone looking to cut their carbs and sugar intake and also looking for more protein,” he added. A 2016 report by market research firm IbisWorld pegged the U.S. frozen pizza market at $3 billion in revenue. But sales were expected to decline by 2021 as food companies focus on developing premium pizza brands appealing to the health conscious and face competition from restaurants and other places offering fresh and quickly delivered pizza. According to online statistics company Statista Inc., DiGiorno’s, which is owned by Swiss firm Nestle S.A., dominated frozen pizza sales in the U.S. last year with a 23-percent market share. The next closest was Red Baron with a 13-percent market share, followed by Totino’s Party Pizza with an 8-percent and Tombstone with a 6-percent market share. Steve Stallman, president of Stallman Marketing, in Santa Clarita, and president of the Food Consultants Group, said that frozen foods in general are among the toughest categories to sell in retail, with pizza being second to, if not tied with, ice cream as the toughest segment in a supermarket’s freezer section. The volume of pizzas is tremendous so securing space in the freezer section is a challenge, Stallman said, adding that the only way for a pizza to get into supermarkets is to kick another brand out. “They are already paying big bucks to get in, so you have to have an incredibly compelling story to get distribution,” he added. Real Good Foods made its way into grocery stores by first establishing itself in the online world, Freeman said. The company’s Facebook and Instagram pages have a combined 270,000 followers. “There are few food companies with that large of a following, especially in the frozen category,” he noted. Popular pepperoni Real Good frozen pizzas were created by company founder Josh Schreider. As the owner of several pizza restaurants. Schreider was looking for a way for people to eat pizza more frequently but without all the sugars and carbs. He worked for about a year to come up with the chicken and Parmesan crust, Freeman said. “He realized chicken is a delicious source of protein and by working with it was able to come up with a crust that was delicious,” Freeman added. Real Good pizzas average about 4 grams of carbs per serving (or slice) compared to 30 grams to 40 grams in competing pizzas. Protein averages 25 grams per serving in a Real Good pizza, compared to the less than 15 grams in some others. The price starts at $6.99 for a pizza at retail, while online orders through the company store require a minimum of one case that costs about $30 for six pizzas. The average online order size is three cases, Freeman said. The Real Good brand puts out three dinner pizzas and three breakfast pizzas. The most popular is the pepperoni, Freeman said, with his personal favorite being the supreme, which has Italian sausage, uncured pepperoni and vegetables. But Stallman, the marketing professional, was a bit skeptical about Real Good pizza, saying it is not the only low carb, high protein pizza available. The chicken and Parmesan crust, while unique, was no big deal because there is not a huge following for it, he added. “It is fine they are creating it, but you are coming off zero consumer awareness,” Stallman said. “It is not like consumers are clamoring for a Parmesan chicken crust in pizza.” Freeman, however, would beg to differ. What has been surprising is that the pizzas are being eaten across all demographics. Diabetics, like the boy who wrote the letter, are prized customers in that Real Good gives a solution for people who otherwise cannot eat pizzas high in sugars. “What we are finding is those folks who have diabetes span across all age groups,” Freeman said. “We also have people that look for high protein, low-carb meals to solve their fitness goals or a healthy eating lifestyle. It is a very broad range.” Social media marketing Freeman credits the success of Real Good Foods to both sales and a strong social media following. The company does no traditional advertising and all its investment in getting the word out about its products is online. “We have folks here that spend all their time talking via social media with people who are interacting with us and the brand,” Freeman said. “It is definitely a two-way conversation and it’s a relationship we want to grow and build.” The company has already expanded its product offerings by adding enchiladas in recent months. Freeman said that Real Good Foods will move into new and adjacent food categories as long as it feels the consumer is giving the company permission to do just that. Freeman would not disclose what other food items the company is looking to produce. Real Good Foods works with third-party manufacturers on the West Coast to make its food products and then ships to a variety of warehouses throughout the country, he said.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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