CLEVELAND, Ohio – Even before local grocers began experiencing runs on certain foods and supplies due to the coronavirus pandemic, stores in Greater Cleveland began seeing a shortage of one particular frozen pizza brand.
Outsiders Pizza Company, a boutique brand concentrating on Midwest styles and flavors, was noticing orders from grocers steadily increase. And we know why: After months of cleveland.com’s taste test of 130 frozen pizzas, and days of deliberation to determine the rankings, the top two pizzas were both from the Outsiders line. No. 1 was the Jalapeno Bacon, and No. 2 was the Three Cheese (see all 130 rankings).
The biggest surprise came after the judging were done when we noticed Outsiders was distributed by Foundry Foods in Cleveland, a division of Nestle USA’s internal incubator.
According to John O’Hara, the brand manager for Outsiders, the brand was experiencing strong growth before families started stocking their freezers because of the need to make more meals at home with Ohio restaurants closed.
How did Outsiders come to be?
“We were looking for ways to bring new people into the frozen pizza market, and as we talked through new and innovative tastes with our team, it always came back to their hometown pizza as their ultimate favorite pizza,” O’Hara said. Rather than search for pizza trends around the country — or the world — Foundry Foods decided to focus on the Midwest’s “less-celebrated styles” from Detroit, Milwaukee and the Quad Cities.
One of the challenges was finding the right mix of new, and different, styles. “Our whole mantra was to celebrate the Midwest by being innovative, without being too polarizing,” said O’Hara.
Here’s what was created:
- · Detroit-style pizza is a thick crust born from the legend that Detroit auto workers used their deep industrial pans to cook pizza at the factories while they worked.
- · Milwaukee-style pizzas are reminiscent of the pizza locals find at their favorite watering holes.
- · Quad Cities-style pizzas are unique, with their malt dough crusts that have a slightly sweet and nuttier flavor.
Since the eight pizzas launched in late 2016, Detroit and Quad Cities styles gained traction quickly, while some Milwaukee flavors floundered, O’Hara said.
The Milwaukee-style pepperoni and cheese flavors have already been discontinued, according to O’Hara, and the company will soon launch new flavors from that region. The Milwaukee Spicy Sausage and Cheese Curd has a strong following.
The overall popularity of the Outsiders pizza line exceeded expectations at Nestle.
“Launching a new brand from ground up is not something large companies do well,” said O’Hara. “It’s always hard to gain acceptance from retailers and customers, who tend to rely on the tried and true.”
According to O’Hara, stores that took an early chance on the fledgling brand now sees success in sales and comments on social media.
While Outsiders stayed with regional grocery chains in the beginning, they are now looking to take the brand national, but still believe the key is finding the right grocery partners.
“At our early tasting events, we had people asking where the restaurant is located,” he said. “That was a sign to us that we had a hit on our hands.”
Outsiders pizzas are available locally at Giant Eagle, Heinen’s, Meijer, Target and Acme.
Source: Thanks https://www.cleveland.com/entertainment/2020/03/we-were-shocked-to-discover-top-2-in-best-frozen-pizza-contest-are-made-in-cleveland-outsiders-pizza-co.html