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The History of Frozen Pizza

Around 1950, American pizzeria owners began offering refrigerated pizzas that customers could take home and cook in their own kitchens. Some restaurants soon started selling frozen versions, since they could be stored for longer. The first patent for frozen pizza was awarded to a man named Joseph Bucci in Philadelphia in 1954. However, frozen pizzas started showing up in grocery stores a few years before it was granted. Until the 1960s, America’s frozen pizza industry was mostly made up of regional players. Then in 1962, Rose and Jim Totino began mass-producing Totino’s frozen pizzas from a plant in St. Louis Park, Minnesota; by the 1970s, Totino’s was America’s top-selling frozen pizza brand and the couple sold their business to Pillsbury in 1975. Multiple corporations also entered the frozen pizza market by buying up notable family brands, including Quaker Oats, which bought Mama Celeste’s in 1969; Kraft Foods, which bought Tombstone Pizza in 1986; and frozen food delivery company Schwan’s, which bought Tony’s frozen pizza in 1970. Schwan’s also expanded its reach by launching their own frozen pizza brand, Red Baron, which quickly became one of the most popular frozen pizza brands in America. In 1995, Kraft launched DiGiorno frozen pizzas. What set DiGiorno apart was its rising crust (previously, frozen pizzas relied on flat, crunchy crusts). The following year, Schwan’s launched its own rising-crust option, Freschetta; although Kraft sued Schwan’s over trade secrets, the lawsuit was settled in 2001 and Freschetta remains a popular option at grocery stores. Still, no frozen pizza has been as successful as DiGiorno. Just three years after its debut, DiGiorno became the top-selling frozen pizza brand in America and it has remained the country’s best-selling brand for more than two decades. Today, the frozen pizza market continues to thrive and at least one estimate suggests that the industry could be worth over $17 billion in 2023!

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