The economic downturn in the UK has seen consumers shun eating out for eating in and pizza has benefited. Goodfella's, the best-selling frozen pizza brand, has undergone a major relaunch in a bid to stave off growing competition in the sector. In this month's Just the Answer, Dean Best speaks to Goodfella's senior brand manager David Wilson about the brand's bid to stay ahead of the pack. 

j-f: What was the rationale behind the relaunch of Goodfella's?

Wilson: We felt it was absolutely the right time to give the Goodfella's brand and the packaging a more refined, modern look and contemporary feel. What we are trying to do is further increase our brand differentiation and absolute relevance to the consumer and that consumer being very family-orientated, large household type of audience. We're communicating a new positioning of being devoted to pizza pleasure; the lengths that we go to at Goodfella's to give some pleasure back to the consumer.

j-f: Competition in the UK pizza category seems to be heating up, with the likes of Schwan's and Dr. Oetker investing heavily behind their brands. What do you make of those moves and why does Goodfella's stand out from its rivals?

Wilson: In the current economic climate, more people are choosing frozen food as a good, quality feed-the-family option and people are looking for good nights in, rather than going out to restaurants. So, you're seeing portfolio expansions that maybe take in takeaway pizzas, fine-dining pizzas and so on. I think it's all good for the brand and all good for the category as a whole. We are a strong brand, we are currently worth GBP103m as a frozen pizza brand. Relative to the competition, we have a  very diverse range [and] we have got something for everyone.

j-f: How competitive is the pizza category? Is price a significant factor? And how does being part of Northern Foods help Goodfella's withstand any promotional activity from its rivals?

Wilson: It is very fierce. Retailers are looking to give consumers the best possible deal. We're looking for a balance of trade support in store and brand investment. We operate in an aggressive category, we have a long-term vision on that but, at the moment, our aim is to withdraw some of that investment and put it into above-the-line spending. Our focus as market leader is to maintain a long-term approach; short-term reactions is not something we want to entertain. Goodfella's is known for its quality credentials, which we have got to maintain in the eyes of the consumer. And if you look at the range as a portfolio, that allows us to offer consumers different price points. Our media strategy is to inject substantial investment now in terms of brand and marketing spend to maintain our credentials for the long term. That's where our focus is in terms of spend and promotional activity.

j-f: What trends have been behind the latest innovations in pizza and where do you see the future of new product development in the category?

Wilson: There are some mega-trends coming in: the rise of eating in, consumers' experiences with food and ingredients... it's allowing us as manufacturers to explore many opportunities - hand-held, snacking and so on. Eating in has been very important recently, with takeaway solutions, and that will continue to grow, given the way the climate is. They will be probably be a move to more individual and possibly healthier solutions as we go forward into the next few years.

j-f: It appears that Goodfella's is also facing growing competition from the big, takeaway pizza businesses, like Domino's, who have benefited from the economic downturn in the UK, as people eat out less. What do you make of that threat to the Goodfella's brand?

Wilson: We feel we have a portfolio, a product scenario and a pricing range for a wider consumer audience. Really, for our core focus - families, large households, possibly shopping on a budget as well - we have a diversity of range and pricing structure that allows them to buy on different levels. It's good for heightening the awareness of pizza but we can exploit that a little bit further.

Goodfella's senior brand manager David Wilson

j-f: Goodfella's leads frozen pizza but does it have any ambitions in the chilled category?

Wilson: We are number one in frozen pizza [and] by applying that knowledge of pizza and the strength of the brand, we want to move into chilled and we see a huge sales opportunity there. Chilled consumers are predominantly the same who buy into frozen food at different need-states at different times of the week, so by exploiting that, we aim to become the number one pizza supermarket brand in the UK, across both frozen and chilled. We launched Goodfella's Signatore last year, we'll continue to use the same business model as we do in frozen, so we'd expect product development and brand investment behind each line, each year, and that will be the same for Signatore and for chilled going forward into  next year.

j-f: How are you seeing your ingredients costs after the soaring prices of the last year?

Wilson: We're well-managed in terms of Northern Foods and we're geared up for the long term in production and procurement and we'll see ourselves through this period of time. Clearly, there are internal pressures on costs just like any other competitor but we're right for the long term and we'll make the necessary adjustments as we go forward.

We'll continue to invest for the future. We have very strong visions of what we want to become in the future both in frozen and chilled and we're in good shape to do that.