How Totino's Grew To Dominate The Frozen Pizza Market

It's hard to imagine a time when frozen pizza didn't exist when you couldn't simply take a pizza out of the freezer and place it on the bottom rack to bake for about 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the crust is browned and crunchy. It's the go-to meal when you are too tired to cook, perfect for a late night snack, or to make for that kid who is a picky eater. 

But, yes, there was a time when Americans either had to go to a restaurant or make their own at home to satisfy their pizza craving. Then, in the 1950s, companies began to use flash freezing methods to prepare the pizzas to be sold, according to CNBC. Prior to that, restaurants would sell either fresh or frozen pizzas that could be bought and taken home to be baked. 

The flash freezing method kept moisture out of the packaging so that the pizza crust would not get soggy when baked. For years, frozen pizzas were sold by local or regional suppliers and didn't get nationally distributed until Celentano Brothers pizza in the 1950s, per Mel Magazine. While that company got the first pizza pies distributed around the country, it wasn't until 1962 with the Totino family that the popularity of frozen pizza really skyrocketed, according to CNBC.

From pizza pies to pizza rolls

According to CNBC, about a decade after opening an Italian restaurant in Minnesota, Rose and Jim Totino started a new venture in 1962: Making and selling frozen pizza.

It took only a few years until Totino's would gain national recognition. In 1970, Totino's sold $10 million worth of products, which grew to $50 million in 1974. According to Weird History Food, the company made hundreds of pizzas per hour at its facility. All this success made Totino's the best-selling frozen pizza company in the United States, per Wonderopolis.  It was in 1975 that Rose and Jim Totino decided to sell their business to the Pillsbury Company for $22 million, reports CNBC.

According to the company, another claim to fame for Totino's was its invention of pizza rolls.  In the years since the pizza roll was created and people began to munch on them as a snack or meal, Totino's states that it has continued to make them better by improving how they taste and cook. Totino's is now owned by General Mills, the top seller of frozen appetizers and snack rolls, with $606.6 million in sales during the 52-week period ending May 19, 2019, according to IRI. So the next time you get a craving for pizza, put a frozen pie in the oven and thank Rose and Jim Totino for their innovation.