Best and worst frozen pizzas

Is a gourmet image on a frozen pizza box an indicator of better taste?
 
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01 .Do gourmet frozen pizzas taste better?

pizza slice

Gourmet images on packaging and fancy-sounding ingredients make frozen pizzas seem more appealing.  But do they taste any better and are they any healthier? CHOICE decided to test a range of frozen pizzas to see if they lived up to their enticing packaging.

We took spin down the pizza aisle of several supermarkets and noticed very few of the pizzas we looked at had old-style cheap, budget-looking frozen pizza packaging.

Instead, most offered artfully shot, luscious images of gourmet-style pizzas, with descriptions such as “mild goat’s cheese with spinach, roasted mushrooms and juicy cherry tomatoes”, “premium leg ham”, “stone baked in a wood fired oven” or “only the finest ingredients”.

Although these pizzas are mass produced in a factory (sometimes on the other side of the world), the boxes showed rustic wooden chopping blocks, with a glimpse of farm fresh ingredients in a rustic kitchen, a tasteful linen napkin or an enticing glass of red wine.

CHOICE pizzas taste test

We recruited a team of enthusiastic, hungry tasters to see how gourmet a sample of Hawaiian and vegetarian frozen pizzas tasted. Sadly, the tasters’ anticipation turned almost immediately to disappointment – and in some cases revulsion – once the tasting process began.

The topline response from the tasters was that the vegetarian pizzas were OK, but the Hawaiian pizzas were so dire they had some trouble picking a favourite.

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Hawaiian pizzas

The tasters were generally unenthused and struggled to pick a winner. Ultimately, When in Rome, the pizza with the highest kilojoules and fat was the best pizza at a budget price of $0.67 per 100g.

However, the vast majority of testers were united in their condemnation of the worst pizza, the Weight Watchers, which has the lowest kilojoules and saturated fat. It was also the most expensive at $3.59/100g and for the price, a measly 175g compared to 450g for the When In Rome.

Taste tester's comment about When In Rome:
"This pizza won by a whisker, it's not great, but is the best of a bad bunch".

Taste testers' comments about Weight Watchers:
"Barely fits into the pizza category"; "Foul artificial taste"; "Weird little shrunken pizza".

frozen-pizza-hawaiian-ranking

 

Hawaiian Frozen Pizza Taste Test - Best to Worst


ENERGY
(kJ per 100g)

FAT
(g per 100g)

SAT FAT
(g per 100g)

SODIUM
(mg per 100g)

WEIGHT
(g)

SERVES
PRICE
($)*

PRICE ($
per 100g)
When in Rome Hawaiian (Coles) 974 7.4 3.2 339 450 8 3.00 0.67
International Cuisine Hawaiian (Aldi) 963 6.3 3.4 340 500 8 3.00 0.67
Dr. Oetker Papa Giuseppi’s Hawaiian 939 6.9 2.6 600 445 4 6.99 1.57
McCain Ham & Pineapple 963 6.3 3.4 340 500 4 6.25 1.25
Woolworths Home Brand Family Hawaiian 920 5.9 2.2 290 500 8 3.00 0.6
Weight Watchers Hawaiian 645 2 0.9 310 175 1 6.28 3.59

Vegetarian pizzas

The vegetarian pizzas highlight the tendency for fancy marketing jargon on the box such as “wood-fired” and “Mediterranean”. But our testers didn’t pick up on these gourmet traits; instead, some were perplexed by what they called the “burnt taste” on the bottom of a “wood-fired” pizza.

Dr. Oetker Ristorante Spinaci came top and just like the vegetarian favourite, it has the highest fat and salt. It was the second most expensive ($1.79/100g) after the McCain Mediterranean ($2.25/100g) which also came a close second on taste.

The Coles When in Rome Margherita was voted worst pizza by an overwhelming majority and was the cheapest at $0.67/100g

Taste Tester's comments about Dr. Oetker Ristorante Spinaci:
“Looked like a rabbit vomited on it, but was the best tasting one, with generous quantity of toppings.”
“Tastes like real spinach on top, nice and simple.”

 Taste Tester's comments about Coles When in Rome Margherita:
“Gross, soggy, gluey, bland. Yuck.”
“Smelled, looked and tasted bad. Base was doughy and cheese flavourless.”

 

the best and the worst vegetarian pizzas as judged by CHOICE taste testers

Vegetarian Frozen Pizza Taste Test - Best to Worst
   

ENERGY
(kJ per 100g)
FAT
(g per 100g)
SAT FAT
(g per 100g)
SODIUM
(mg per 100g)
WEIGHT
(g)
SERVES PRICE
($)*
 

PRICE ($
per 100g)
 
Dr. Oetker Ristorante
Pizza Spinaci
943 11.7 2.8 482 390 1  6.99  1.79
McCain Mediterranean Vegetable 899 9.7 5.1 440 310 4  6.99  2.25
Woolworths Select
Roasted Mediterranean
797 3.6 1.5 510 420 8  4.99  1.19
Casa Barelli Vegetable (Aldi) 789 4.2 1.9 310 400 8  3.99  1.00
When in Rome Margherita (Coles) 901 5.9
3.4 280 450 8  3.00  0.67

   

For more information on food and groceries, or for nutrition information, see food and drink.

 
 

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Frozen pizzas wtih more vegetabls and less meat and cheese are a healthier choice

With their high fat and salt content and low fibre levels, frozen pizzas are not exactly health food, but there are a few things to look for on the nutrition panel and ingredients list that can help you make a lighter choice.

Crust

Despite descriptors such as “super thin” or “regular”, most frozen pizza crusts look quite similar. And they don’t seem to make a big impact on the kJ content either. It’s the toppings that seem to determine the pizzas’ nutritional value.

Kilojoules

There appears to be an increase in vegetarian frozen pizza choices in the supermarket, perhaps in a nod to healthier eating. While vegetarian pizzas can be better for you than meaty ones, if they’re cheese-heavy it will add significant kilojoules. For a lighter choice, look for a pizza with more vegetables, and less meat and cheese.

Unsurprisingly, the Weight Watchers pizza we looked at was the lowest in kilojoules and saturated fat. However, with a whole one-serve pizza weighing in at a tiny 175g, it’s almost a third of the size of the 500g pizzas. And at about 645kJ, they’re more of a snack than a satisfying meal.

Saturated fat

It’s to be expected that most pizzas have a hefty fat content, but some have frankly terrifying amounts. If you eat a whole, one-serve Dr. Oetker Ristorante Mozzarella you’ll be wolfing down 45.6g of total fat – that's more than three tablespoons. Ewww! For heart health watch out for saturated fat content on the nutrition panel.


 frozen pizza saturated fat

Serving sizes

When comparing nutritional values between pizzas, beware the “per serve” figures on the nutritional information panel – the suggested “serves” per pizza – don’t reflect how many serves people actually eat.

Dr. Oetker was the only brand which recommended one serve per whole pizza - making it very easy to calculate how many kilojoules you've eaten by looking at the “per serve” column in the nutritional panel.

Most pizzas we looked at had suggested serving sizes ranging from four serves per pizza up to eight serves, which makes it much harder know what the kilojoule load is.

For example, if you have one 56g “serve” of When In Rome Hawaiian, you’d consume 545kJ. Realistically, an adult is more likely to eat at least two slices (two serves 1090kJ) or four slices (four serves 2180kJ).

A few men we asked said they’d easily eat one whole pizza (eight serves – 4360kJ) – that’s half the suggested daily adult kilojoule intake of 8700kJ.

The “per 100g” figure on the nutritional panel is the best way to calculate how many kilojoules you’ve eaten – but remember to take into account the weight of the pizza. Eating half of a 500g pizza may be 500kJ more than eating half of a 400g pizza with the same amount of kilojoules.

Sodium

Of the 50 pizzas CHOICE looked at:

  • None had a low sodium level (less than 120mg/100g).
  • 80% had medium sodium levels (120mg/100g to 600mg/kg)
  • 20% had high sodium levels (600mg/100g or more)

If you eat half of McCain’s Pepperoni pizza, you’d consume 1440mg of sodium, which is:

  • 100% of the safe daily upper sodium limit for kids aged four to eight years
  • 72% for nine to 13-year-olds (2000mg)
  • 63% for adults (2300mg).

capsicumWhat the nutrition expert says...

Like our tasters, Natasha Murray, accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, struggled to find any redeeming features of frozen pizzas.

“The same as most processed foods, frozen pizzas are high in fat and salt and low in fibre and vegetables. Even with vegetarian pizzas, you’d be lucky to get even one serve of veggies on a whole pizza, and the meat is generally poor quality,” she says.

Dietary guidelines advise you to limit processed foods, but if you do choose to eat a frozen pizza, add an extra serve of veggies as topping on the pizza and have it with a side salad.”

What are the most popular frozen pizza brands?McCain veg

McCain Foods is the leading frozen pizza producer with 64 per cent of the value share in the Australian frozen pizza market, but its share has been in decline due to tough competition from premium offerings from Dr. Oetker, as well as supermarket brands which have eroded the company’s value share. *

 *Source: Euromonitor: Ready Meals in Australia Jan 2013.


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