February 26, 2016

Interview with Charlie Schnaars, Mama Rosa’s

Mama Rosa’s is a leading refrigerated pizza brand. The company, founded in 1979, will be expanding its offerings to breakfast pizza items, called “picolettos,” within the next two months. Grocery Insight spoke with Charlie Schnaars, Mama Rosa’s Sr. VP of Sales and Marketing, to get his take on the category.


Grocery Insight: Describe your newer line of products.

Charlie Schnaars: One of the top trends in 2013 is snacking and mini-meals. Everyone wants portable snacking solutions. What’s key for us is they also like breakfast. 90% of consumers claim they eat breakfast now. We feel with the average person eating multiple breakfasts a day, we could appeal to the portable on the go, and still be a comfort food. So we developed some small type of products, which we’re about to launch.The first line is our 3-inch deep-dish crust, basically pizza snacking type options. You’ve got your pepperoni, your cheese, your combo. But we can top them with ethnic preferences if there was a need for it. We’re all over that particular part of it. For the early morning crowd, we’ve developed breakfast picolettos. Egg and cheese, bacon, more breakfast-type products. We’re going to roll those out in June.


GI: What promotional or educational outreach does Mama Rosa’s do to promote the brand?

CS: We ran our products at Ohio State, we did consumer testing, and it was pretty impressive. 72% of consumers eat pizza snacks between once a week and once a month. And 50% of the consumers we tested said they would switch their normal snack to our pizza snacks. One of the things we did is we now have chef Roberto Lioci. Because pizza’s an American staple, but has Italian roots, between Italian sausage and pepperoni, people think of it as an Old World food. So we hired chef Roberto Lioci as one of the top 100 chefs in the world. We’ve been working with him to develop a number of recipes.


GI: How have you promoted your products in the breakfast category?

CS: We’re about to launch and run a few ads in June. Obviously you have to spend your money wisely. We don’t have the high budget some of the big boys have to coupon nationally. We rely on the retailer understanding the need for breakfast and how breakfast is growing. My thought process is, retailers are coming to understand that they need breakfast. There’s the sausage sandwich, croissant sandwich, breakfast wraps, but we try to put out (something) a little bit unique, especially for children. We’ve got convenient packs available. Hopefully we can educate and work with our retail partners to help them understand what’s really going on with breakfast today.


GI: Who do you see as your major competition?

CS: For me, competition is everybody. The consumer only has so much money to spend. Are you going to Panera Bread or Chili’s? Are you going to Pizza Hut? If you go to the frozen aisle, you’re inundated from frozen aisle because everyone wants you to buy their pizza. And if you want refrigerated, you’re going to buy Mama Rosa’s. Consumers only have so much money to spend on pizza, and if they’re spending it somewhere else, they’re not going to spend it at a retailer. It’s my goal to capture them at one of their retail partners.


GI: Where would you like to see Mama Rosa’s in 5 years?

CS: We have a vision that Mama Rosa is a meal solution provider. There’s anumber of retailers doing a tremendous job offering meal solutions. You see refrigerated entrees, barbecue products, typically you’ll see multiple SKU’s and brands of mashed potatoes, as a great side dish to any meal. A lot of consumers today, they’re satisfied by quick and convenient consumer eats. Our goal to play in that area, because what is a more convenient solution than pizza? I want to see it as a major player in the convenient meal category and give the consumers what they want.


GI: Can you discuss the overall development of the pizza category over the past decade?

CS: From 2006 to 2009, pizza was growing. People were picking up pizza as convenient meals to put in freezers. Pizza now I think is declining, and is expected to decline thru 2016. Consumers are suffering from what we’ll call “recession fatigue,” which caused consumers to spend out more money on eating out or delivering. There’s a lot of other opportunities for consumers to spend their money on pizzas. Retail is not benefiting from the so-called economic recovery as fast as some of the restaurants and so-called QSR’s. The good thing is, 70% of adults eat pizza. The reality of it is, everybody eats pizza.

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