Red Baron Gold Edition Thin Crust Pizza is available in a variety of flavors such as Supreme; Mozzarella, Tomato & Basil; Five Cheese; Ultimate Pepperoni; Italian Sausage & Pepperoni; and Meat Trio. Each package is 22 oz. and yields four servings; prices are $4.99-$5.49.
We tried the Mozzarella, Tomato & Basil. The package is black with a beauty shot of the pizza flavor type covering the entire front. Under this burst is a smaller definition of the ingredients that make up the particular variety. On the back is Red Baron's definition of premium quality, in effect a word picture of the food. "The product starts with a golden crispy crust, finishes with only the finest select toppings: savory meats, flavorful cheeses, and delicious spices to guarantee an extraordinary taste experience with every bite." The product looks upscale with less common red sauce and more large pieces of tomato and basil. This is not just cheese melted on a piece of bread with some ketchup-like red sauce.
Textural differences between the crust and toppings and flavors are critical to the perception of quality. The product looks appealing. No orangey red sauce or water-soaked green things. The crust is crisp at the edge and makes it hard to believe this came from the freezer. The sauce is upscale and tastes homemade or fresh from the garden, not sweet like typical frozen pizza sauces. The tomatoes taste like fresh tomatoes with a just-heated, crispy texture, not soupy, soft and overcooked. The mozzarella tastes like fresh mozzarella cheese with a chewy texture, not like the faux mozzarella that has been mixed with other cheeses to become a gooey, melted, fatty mass.
We found the product is consistent from edge to edge and package to package. Some other brands seemed to think that once they capture us as consumers, they can widen the quality range to make great just good enough. The idea of upscale is not easy to achieve. Using this pizza as a guide, it seems that upscale is about how many tomato pieces, their size and color and how much (or little) tomato sauce.
Our tasters had a variety of reactions. They were surprised at the fresher, more adult flavors. This tasted premium. Those with kids were concerned at the difference between this pizza and standard pizza. Would the kids actually eat it? Or was this a pizza for adult time, the kind of pizza they could serve at an adult party, familiar, yet special.
But what about the health aspect? When compared to Tombstone and DiGiorno, Red Baron had lower fat (13g vs. 19 or 14g), lower sugar (3g vs. 5 or 3g) and lower sodium (590g vs. 860 or 750g) than the other two. This is achieved at a comparable serving size of 270 calories vs. 380 or 260 calories. The freshness of the flavors and the textural differences reinforce the healthy halo of this pizza.
Does the product deliver?
The Red Baron pizza brand stands for "the ordinary becomes the extraordinary." This product delivers. The adult reactions acknowledged its familiarity yet specialness. By focusing on classic toppings but delivering upscale premium characteristics in the appearance, flavors and textures, Red Baron has met the promise.
How to make the idea bigger: This product is competing with other pizzas and appetizers for adult attention. Most consumers are unaware of the healthfulness of this premium pizza. This one delivers a great meal with nutrition that fits consumer behaviors and does not require them to change.
Can this pizza move to premium mainstream beyond the adult premium segment? The issue is the trade-off between a fresh tomato flavor and the more familiar, sweet tomato sauce. Kids are used to the latter. This one takes some getting used to. If this product is going to focus on the upscale niche, then it's already there. Expansion could be to smaller sizes for the individual or a larger sizes/rectangular form that allows it to be used for parties.
Rating: Red Baron Gold Edition Thin Crust pizza delivers on its promises. It creates a familiar, family-oriented meal with a touch of upscale adult premiumness without going to unfamiliar and unusual toppings.
Market potential: Good.
Hollis Ashman (email@example.com) is chief strategist and Jacqueline Beckley (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president of the Understanding and Insight Group, a strategy, business and product development firm. See www.theuandigroup.com.