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It is unlikely that the US retail pizza sector will look back on 2015 with much fondness. Annual sales of pizza at retail were estimated to have grown by a solid amount in 2015. With the economy looking brighter, consumers have been trading up and out of retail pizza, to more expensive delivery and foodservice options. This corresponds with 2015 being the first year on record in which Americans spent more on dining out than on groceries, according to government data. With fast casual chains like Blaze Pizza and Pieology rapidly expanding their national presence, and Domino’s continuing to enjoy positive sales momentum, frozen pizza makers have been under huge pressure.

European retail pizza brands have also invested in premiumisation to help compete with the threat from the out-of-home channel. In the UK, retail volume sales of pizza have suffered owing to more expensive, premium lines coming through in the dominant private label sector, according to Prepared Meals Review – UK, May 2015. Even consumer tastes in less established markets have become more sophisticated. Chinese consumers demonstrate a growing appreciation for authentic Italian pizza, spelling bad news for Pizza Hut, which more resembles an American/Chinese fusion fast food joint. Pizza Hut’s owner, Yum Brands, cut its China division loose in October 2015, making it a separate franchisee of Yum Brands. With this in mind, it was excellent timing for high-end pizza chain Pizza Express to accelerate its expansion plans and buy its Chinese franchise partner in June 2015.

Low oven and freezer ownership remains a barrier for the growth of retail pizza in other developing markets like the Middle East and Africa, while the increased number of launches in the Asia Pacific region in 2015 corresponds with a leap in ownership of microwaveable pizza launches. Increasing urbanization in developing markets is driving ownership of microwaves ovens – more so than larger-sized and more expensive conventional ovens.

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