Pizza has always scored high on the comfort food chart. Somehow, that already high number continues to go up and up.

Seventy percent of consumers say pizza is a comfort food, according to new Kantar Profiles/Mintel research. And more than two out of three — 65% — say they’re interested in eating pizza as a meal for a time when they didn’t plan to eat something else.

And, of particular note for grocery retailers, pizza continues to hit it out of the park when it comes to convenience. Two out of three consumers eat store-bought pizza because it’s easy and quick to prepare, according to Mintel.

But pizza’s ever-growing, ever-evolving importance to Americans goes further than that, said Mintel’s Kelsey Olsen.

“It’s about more than just convenience,” she said. “While convenience and ease lay the foundation of pizza, growing motivators for consumption suggest that pizza can – and should – be something more for consumers.”

Luckily, she added, pizza also carries a reputation for satisfying cravings and offering comfort. Retailers looking to bolster their deli/prepared foods pizza offerings can shake things up while maintaining simplicity at the same time.

“There is comfort in familiarity and ease, but as pizza perceptions shift and new behaviors emerge, opportunities emerge for the category to meet more needs, especially for younger generations,” Olsen said.

Customization and pairing inspiration can make store-bought pizza night more robust and versatile with different consumer groups, she added.

Retailers can prove pizza’s long-term value by emphasizing how it remains accessible and cost effective despite inflated prices.

“Good value increasingly drives consumption,” Olsen said. “However, while price is a strong component in the value equation, other attributes like convenience, satiation, and customizability will forge longer-term value in the category as prices stabilize.”

Other recommendations Mintel has for pizza marketers and merchandisers include:

1. Evolve and expand comfort food positioning.

Crave-worthiness and comfort open up the opportunity for pizza to build a more robust identity past convenience. While familiarity is a key component of the comfort aspect, pizza can continue to grow the appeal of the category to meet more diverse needs and occasions.

2. Be there for both unplanned and planned occasions.

Pizza is there for consumers as a backup meal solution, with a real opportunity for brands to build upon this narrative. However, pizza can – and should – be more than this, particularly for younger generations and parents who point to engagement and interest with more intentional experiences at home.

3. Show simple routes to customization and elevation.

Consumers aren’t looking to completely shake up pizza experiences, but customization, personalization and elevation can offer opportunities to meet more occasions. Brands have an opportunity to offer a more personalized experience with store bought pizza, customized to different types of occasions, group sizes, cravings.

This article is an excerpt from the January 2024 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the entire Pizza feature and more in the digital edition here.