How Totino's Changed Pizza Forever

It's hard to imagine a time when grocery store freezers weren't lined with frozen pizzas. From DiGiorno to Red Baron, the frozen pizza industry seems only to keep growing. In 2020, Statista reported that the frozen pizza market had ballooned to an estimated $16.2 billion industry, and it's projected to be at roughly $23.3 billion by 2027. Still, frozen pizza had to come from somewhere. It turns out a Minneapolis couple might have played more of a role in establishing the industry than they ever could have anticipated.

If you've seen the popular Totino's brand on grocery store shelves, then you've seen the brainchild of Jim and Rose Totino. According to the company's website, they established a mom-and-pop pizzeria in Minneapolis, Minnesota, back in 1951. But the couple's business grew more quickly than they thought it would, and the two ended up playing a pivotal role in the frozen pizza industry.

Totino's was the star of frozen pizza

Totino's Pizza took off as much more than a typical pizza joint. Per CNBC, in 1962, the couple's pizza restaurant had become so popular that they had to start mass-producing the pizzas to keep up with demand. Enter the frozen Totino's pizza, which was an instant hit and essentially set the stage for the frozen pizza market as we know it today.

CNBC reports that Totino's grew from a Minnesota pizza restaurant to the country's top-selling frozen pizza producer within a decade. By 1975, major companies had become interested in Rose and Jim's business, and the two sold their pizza production to Pillsbury for $22 million that year. The frozen pizza business only continued to grow from there. Soon, mega-companies like Quaker bought up brands such as Mama Celeste's. Kraft purchased the Tombstone brand in 1986 and later launched DiGiorno in 1995. And years later, it's clear that the frozen pizza industry only grew to its size today because of the popularity of Totino's pizzas.