Frozen Specialties is the largest value pizza and bites manufacturer in North America, making the private label branded pies for the top retailers. Barbara Kram offers a slice of life into the Ohio company.
Frozen Specialties, Inc., Holland, Ohio, was founded in 1954 by Bob Garmire and Harry Wegerif. Since then the company has focused on its core product: frozen pizza, which was originally sold under the local brand of value pizza, G&W. The company has expanded to make pizza bites®, a snack and appetizer item, and recently introduced a lean, microwavable pizza Frozen Specialties is also the packer of the Disney Mickey Pizza.
Over the years the company has committed further to its niche and now serves as a contract manufacturer for nearly all of the large grocery retailers in North America. Frozen Specialties remains privately owned by the investment group Swander Pace Capital.
“We manufacture private label and control brands. We have no brands of our own,” said President and CEO Ric Alvarez. “We sell to most retailers nationally and in Canada and Mexico.”
The company is tight-lipped about clients and sales figures but Alvarez said, “Pick any of the top retailers in the three countries, we probably sell product to them. We have grown double digits [in recent years] and it’s accelerated in the last six months. We attribute that to increased consumption of our control brands or private label products.”
Like all food companies, Frozen Specialties must confront today’s supply challenges. Fortunately, the value pizza segment is a growing one as consumers opt to trim their food budgets.
“The biggest thing affecting the entire food industry is commodity costs in the last 12 months,” Alvarez confirmed. “If you look at the components of a pizza – flour, cheese, sauces, meat toppings; film, corrugated packaging – in every ingredient that makes up our product we’ve seen significant increases in the last 12-plus months and the whole food industry has seen this. Meanwhile, the consumer is trading down on where they go to buy. They are spending more dollars eating at home instead of at restaurants. They are perhaps spending more on control brand or private label products. So all that translates to our very viable business, growing significantly.”
The company is helped by its bottom-line focus on reducing production costs at its 150,000-square-foot facility. The plant is expanding to add the pizza bite® operation, being brought in from a Connecticut facility to save freight costs and consolidate equipment.
About 150 employees work for the company, which makes any style of value pizza from as small as six inches up to 10 inches in diameter. “We have multiple lines of the value pizza. A lot of customers have their own recipes so the actual formulations belong to the individual customers. Millions of pies per year go through our facility,” he said. “We have an R&D team working with customers’ R&D teams. The customer has their ideas, we provide technical expertise, and it’s the combination that ends up with the final formulation for a product.”
Of course, the production facility must make the sauces and gear up for each pizza line. Changeovers require shut down and cleanup, packaging changes and sometimes complete line sanitation. Computers control the production planning of the facility with programmable controllers that deposit the toppings and add ingredients such as water, salt, and flour for dough; and sauce and toppings, before going through the oven. It’s all quite automated.
The sheer volume of production requires special planning. “Because we do buy so much, we have multiple suppliers – we have a primary supplier and secondary suppliers for cheese and most ingredients. For sauce, you bring in ingredients, combine them to create the sauce. (depending on the formulation for a particular customer),” Alvarez said.
MADE TO ORDER
Frozen Specialties aims to please its customer brands, creating pizzas of all types and sizes.
“We have experimented with different crust profiles, everything from round to square and thin to thick. We have also developed unique flavor profiles from Mediterranean to fajita style pizza,” said Patrick Koralewski. “Our lean pizza has had a good response due to the health and wellness trend among consumers. It’s also a portable product that can be prepared in the microwave.” He noted that nearly all products are trans fat free.
The company’s experience in frozen fun foods makes it the perfect store brand partner. Frozen Specialties stays on top of frozen food market trends and has an extensive R&D focus to ensure a quality product at an exceptional value. Partners with Frozen Specialties get an incredible variety of frozen pizza and pizza snacks with attractive consumer price points and higher retail margins.
In addition, Frozen Specialties continually tests its frozen pizza product against the other leading national brands to deliver consistent, high quality product. Its plant is geared for high-volume output with an emphasis on product quality. The plant is USDA approved with a superior AIB rating and dedicated quality control team. The automated, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility can handle any size order with reliable, on-time delivery. A dependable, multi-line supplier, Frozen Specialties’ national distribution network promises improved inventory turns, easy ordering and on-time shipping.
Benefits extend to retailers, too. Over the last year or so, the company has initiated a “right-sizing” of its core value pizza packaging, generally converting its standard 12-pack cases to a 16-pack case. “This was a significant undertaking for our company and our valued customers,” Koralewski said. “However, at the end of the day, we have been able to realize several advantages for retailers.” He explained that the right-sized case increases pies per pallet by 50 percent. At the store level, every 100 pies merchandised requires 25 percent less master case handling. Right-sized retail cartons also reduce master case cardboard usage and allow for more pies per truck.
“One of the benefits to our retailers from the right-sizing is the case/pallet configuration. As a result of converting our pack size from 12 to 16, we were able to fit nearly twice as many pies on a pallet. This is a great benefit for a high turn product like frozen pizza. In the past, our retail partners may have had to utilize two pallet positions for an item. After the change it is likely that has been reduced to one pallet position because the pies per pallet almost doubled,” Koralewski noted. “Another benefit is that FSI has been able to reduce our cardboard usage. Not only are we using less cardboard per pie it also means our retail partners are also handling fewer master cases throughout their supply chain.”
TOTAL VALUE EQUATION
The extreme level of understanding of suppliers, production, and customers means an attention to detail that really makes the value pizza a go-to item for retailers and consumers.
“We are the company that can provide tremendous opportunity to design a product best for their customers, put them through a manufacturing facility that is very automated that would lead to a
product with a price point that provides value to the customers’ products,” Alvarez said. “We want to be the premier value pizza and pizza bite® manufacturer in North America. We want to be the consumer’s choice so when you think of value pizza or pizza bites® you will call Frozen Specialties first.”