How The Frozen Pizza Brand Grandiosa Stole Norway's Heart

On movie nights, late evenings after work, or simply a tired Thursday at 9:00 p.m., frozen pizza is there for you. Thanks to frozen pizza, you don't have to travel to Chicago for a deep-dish pie or go to New York City for a classic dollar slice to enjoy a quality pizza. According to New York Daily News, the average U.S. consumer eats more than 6,000 slices during their lifetime — but that's nothing compared to Norwegian pizza fans. Per Atlas Obscura, there are only 5.3 million people in the entire country of Norway, but they put away 47 million frozen pizzas every year. Of those, half are made by the brand Grandiosa.

When Grandiosa was introduced in 1980, it was the first frozen pizza ever to hit Norwegian shores. By 2000, it was the best-selling brand in the country, per Taste Atlas. Peppe's Pizza was one of the first pizza chains to hit Norway, and it had only opened ten years prior in 1970. According to Atlas Obscura, the chain was started by teenage Italian immigrant Frank Peppe, and now has 70 locations across the country. The story goes that when factory-director Ivar Moss was instructed to create frozen pizza, Moss wasn't entirely sure what frozen pizza was supposed to be (via Life in Norway). But Grandiosa reigns supreme. According to a 2004 survey, 20% of Norwegians named Grandiosa frozen pizza as the "unofficial national dish" of Norway (per The Internationalist). Here's how the brand stole Norway's heart.

Step aside, Red Baron and DiGiorno

The pizzazz (or lack thereof) of Norway's real national dish, "fårikål," might be partially to thank for Grandiosa's enduringly pious fanbase. Per Norwegian American, fårikål is an unseasoned stew-like combo of mutton and cabbage and it was named the country's official national dish in 1972 — just as pizza was beginning to crop up on Norway's gastronomic radar. In fact, the last Thursday in September is celebrated as "fårikål day." But Grandiosa has accrued a more rock 'n roll reputation among Nordic foodies than its traditional dish. In 2006, the frozen-pizza fan anthem "Respekt for Grandiosa" (intended as a commercial jingle) topped Norwegian music charts for eight months straight (via Life in Norway). Some might call it good advertising; others might call it devotion. Either way, there's a reason Grandiosa has sold over 600 million pies since it hit the market in 1980 (via Taste Atlas). 

Grandiosa is beloved by fans in the same way any fan loves their favorite frozen pizza brand: Like a reliable old friend. Atlas Obscura calls Grandiosa's enduring fan appeal a mixture of "laziness and loyalty" — which, of course, could reasonably be said of any freezer pie. So, what does it actually taste like?

A fresh spin on classic flavors (save the bells and whistles)

The first Grandiosa pies were topped with tomato sauce, red bell peppers, traditional Norwegian Jarlsberg cheese, and something called "pizza meat." Per Life in Norway, "pizza meat" is a culinarily-Frankensteined-delicacy composed of 40% Norwegian beef, soy protein, and spices. Grandiosa has since expanded to classic flavors like pepperoni, as well as more avant-garde concepts like "Hot Nacho" and "Kebab." Although these flavors might not be considered so experimental to audiences in Norway: per Atlas Obscura, kebabs, French fries, Béarnaise sauce, and even sour cream are common toppings on Nordic pies. Is it worth the hype?

Taste Atlas gives the frozen pizza brand a 2.4 out of 5-star rating. "Grandiosa pizza crust definitely doesn't rise," reports Life in Norway. "Like old-school frozen pizza crust, it is chewy and unexciting." But, depending on who you ask, that's kind of the beauty of a good old-fashioned frozen pizza: It's exactly what it says it is. Truth-in-advertising fans, rise up — even if the crust doesn't rise with you.