Food & Ingredients

What's the Deal with DiGiorno's?

 It's not delivery, it's DiGiorno's. Almost everyone has heard this famous tag line, even those not in the pizza business…your customers.

      "It is one of the most brilliant tag lines I think that has ever been developed," Deanie Elsner, senior brand manager for DiGiorno, said. "It completely capsulates everything this product is. It is as good as delivery. It is a high quality product. But, it's not delivery, it's DiGiorno's."

      Should the carryout/delivery industry be worried about this relatively new frozen pizza? It brags about being compared to delivery pizza, but is there a real threat to lure away your customers?

      With its phenomenal success, more are sure to follow. And, DiGiorno believes they are positioned to tap into the pizza category, like no other frozen pizza could.

      "The total category of pizza is about $26 billion," Elsner said. "Frozen pizza makes up about $2 billion of that category. So there is this huge gap between the frozen pizza and the carryout/delivery pizza, which represents about $14 billion of sales potential. DiGiorno identified this niche market of consumers that really wanted a high quality, good tasting product that would bridge the gap between frozen and carryout/delivery pizza. They wanted more convenience and better value and that is what DiGiorno brought them."

      In 1998, frozen pizza sales increased to over $2 billion for the first time ever. Marketers attribute this increase to the introduction of the DiGiorno's rising crust pizza.

      This new pizza brought the consumer "a restaurant quality crust and a selection of specialty toppings, which far surpassed the frozen pizza competition," Elsner said.

      DiGiorno has big plans, but Elsner said franchising is not among the company's immediate considerations.

      "At this point, franchising and going head to head with carryout/delivery is not where we want to be," Elsner said. "That is not where we are going to win. Where we are going to win is replicating their quality and focusing on frozen pizza."

      Elsner said DiGiorno also knows how to market itself differently from the other frozen pizzas.

      "We have had hot air balloons, we have had the largest flying pizza in the sky," Elsner said. "The idea is just find as many ways as we can to get the consumer to try us."

      The company's most successful marketing effort to date has been the yellow pages promotion.
      "The yellow pages marketing strategy has been very successful," Elsner said. "However, it has also been very challenging. When you go nationally, there are so many yellow pages across the country. But, it has been very successful marketing tool. The ones who call, think it is a wonderful way to break through to them and they get a coupon to try our pizza."

      Elsner said the new pizza was considered a baby in the pizza industry because it was only four years old. However, the baby is proving itself as a true survivor.

      "We have seen double-digit growth and we continue to see that," Elsner said. "In our first year, we exceeded $100 million in sales. As we did in the second year, the third year and the fourth year."

      Still in its infancy, when it went national in 1997, the company proved itself early on. Two years later, for the 52 weeks ending September 13,1999, DiGiorno had a 13.9 share of dollar sales. A one percentage point higher than the Tombstone brand.

      "There is a different crust." Elsner said, "We introduced a self-rising crust, which was the first time nationally that there was a frozen pizza that cooked up fresh in the oven. The pizza is frozen before it has the chance to completely rise. We don't hand toss our pizzas, but we have replicated the end result of a hand tossed pizza. When it comes out of the oven, there is a product that is fresh and delicious."

      In only its third year, DiGiorno's rising crust pizza captured the coveted number one spot in the frozen pizza category. And, half of the sales have been credited to converting carryout/delivery food service customers.

      "Our consumers come back and tell us the two things they love about our pizza is the crust and all the toppings they get over and above the other frozen pizzas," Elsner said. "We looked at the flavors that were being offered from the carryout/delivery section and tried to replicate those flavors on the frozen aisles. We continue to evolve on that. Our newest flavor to be introduced is smoked mozzarella with roasted red peppers."

      Is DiGiorno's proving early on that it is a force to be reckoned with? Or is it expanding the market for us all by getting new consumer groups to add pizza to their diet. On the bright side, Digiorno's is spending millions of dollars to elevated the status of delivery pizza. Thank you Digiorno's.