Monday, October 8, 2018

Celebrating our history for National Pizza Month

Oct. 8, 2018 — Consumers this month are encouraged to enjoy one of America’s favorite foods — pizza. The month of October marks the official National Pizza Month across most of North America. As consumers enjoy a slice or two, we’d like to share a bit of our history and experience in the frozen-pizza business.

Our story with frozen pizza began in the 1960s. It was a time when Americans were gaining appreciation of the convenience and taste a frozen pizza could delivery for their families.

Schwan’s was on the fast track to be gaining a prominent role in the frozen-pizza industry. Only, there was one slight problem — the company’s demand had outgrown its ability to meet supply.

At the time, Schwan’s was dependent on contract packers to supply pizzas. Frustrated by Schwan’s lack of control in a promising market, Alfred Schwan (founder Marvin Schwan’s brother), told Marvin, “We should control our destiny and make our own pizza.”

Scouting vacant buildings throughout the Midwest to set up pizza production, the company eventually ran a ad in the Wall Street Journal with a simple headline: “Wanted: Frozen Pizza Manufacturer.”

The plain-speaking ad was a shot in the dark, but it quickly set Schwan’s up with the opportunity to meet an entrepreneur who owned a pizzeria in Salina, Kansas. Tony’s® pizza had long been a staple of the Salina community. It started in the 1960s as a little pizzeria named Tony’s Little Italy.

In 1970, Marvin Schwan purchased company in Kansas and began sharing its delicious pizza nationwide. Impressed by what at the time was a 12,000-square-foot production facility, much of the Schwan’s team was convinced their issues meeting demand had ceased.

But within a few months, Schwan’s needed more capacity — and then even more. The plant hardly finished a first addition before ripping up the parking lot to expand again. Marvin’s fiscal conservatism was sometimes at odds with his rapid sales. He scaled back the plans for each facility expansion because he thought the square footage was excessive. As a result, the construction company hired to build a succession of expansions worked continuously on the site for more than 20 years. Today, the pizza manufacturing facility in Salina is at more than 500,000 square feet.

In 1975, Tony’s® pizza had become the best-selling frozen pizza on the market. Competition began to gain traction though, and the team knew that something needed to happen.

Gaining momentum, then and now

Acquiring the pizza facility in Salina really set a foundation for Schwan’s becoming a leader of frozen pizza in the U.S. Since then, we’ve developed and acquired several pizza-related ventures.

Some of the more prominent activities include:

  • Launching the Food Service Division (now Schwan’s Food Service, Inc.) in 1975 to providing pizza and other products to K-12 schools. The business unit also serves convenience stores, hospitals, sporting venues and colleges and universities.
  • Introducing pizza to the market in 1976.
  • Acquiring Sabatasso Foods in 1986 and beginning operations at our Kentucky-based pizza manufacturing facility.
  • Introducing Freschetta® pizza in 1996 to frozen-pizza aisles throughout the U.S.
  • In 2005, Schwan’s Food Service, Inc. introduced Big Daddy’s® pizza to the K12 food-service market.
  • In 2014, Freschetta® Gluten Free Pizza was introduced to the market. The pizza is certified by the National Celiac Association.

Today, we continue to seek opportunities to strengthen our position in the U.S. frozen pizza market.

In 2017, our company acquired Ohio-based MaMa Rosa’s Pizza. MaMa Rosa’s manufactures foods for the food-service industry and in retail stores under the MaMa Rosa’s® and Fight’n Tomato Pizza Co.® pizza brands. Additionally, Schwan’s also acquired Pennsylvania-based Better Baked Foods and North Dakota-based Drayton Foods

It’s been a long and adventurous 50-plus years in the pizz
a business and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Thank you to all the consumers, customers and our employees for supporting our pizza products and innovation journey.

No one knows what the future holds, but if pizza is involved, then we know it will be good.

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