Between deep fjords and high mountains on Sunnmøre lies the beach of Stranda. It is here in this unassuming and relatively unknown place that the smell of pizza fills the air — and not just any pizza either. The nation’s favorite dish.
At the end of the 1970s, Stabburet's factory in Stranda needed new products, and in came a proposal to start pizza production. According to the “Norwegian pizza lore,” the factory manager at Stabburet’s factory in Stranda agreed to manufacture frozen pizzas without actually knowing what a pizza was.
Pizza wasn’t really well known in Norway in late 1970s to early 1980s.
"There were already a few frozen pizzas available in stores, but deep-frozen pizza was seen as a strange dish," the brand's team tells us.
The idea behind Grandiosa was to launch a pizza that everyone could enjoy and that had a consistent quality people could trust. In addition, the size should be large enough so that more people could eat it together. Grandiosa began production in February of 1980. It was developed by Stabburet (a company now part of Orkla). The product developer’s name is Ruth Ramskaug.
There are 200 locals that work at the factory, and since 1980 more than 500 million Grandiosa pizzas have been distributed from Stranda.
The factory is called Stranda-fabrikken (which translates to "the Stranda factory"), but everyone, including the employees, calls it Grandiosa-fabrikken (the Grandiosa factory) despite it also producing other products. Grandiosa is so iconic in the world of pizza that even the Norwegian crown-prince has been to visit the factory to witness its production.
"The first name of our frozen pizza back in 1978 was 'Famosa,' produced in our factory in Brummendal. In the process of moving the production to Stranda in 1979 to early 1980, the brand manager and the product developer went on a road trip. When driving on the famous Norwegian bridge 'Minnesundbrua' (over Glomma, the longest river in Norway) they came up with the name 'Grandiosa,'" the team said. "The idea of the name was that they wanted the pizza to be large enough for families to enjoy at home together (and for the launch to be big, great, grand, and to successful in the market)."
The slogan back then was “Love at first bite” and today, the slogan is “We’re talking real love” (Vi snakkerektekjærlighet).
There are currently 18 varieties of this pizza, and in addition to serving the home market in Norway, they export Grandiosa to Sweden, Finland, and the Faroe islands. The pizza is also produced in Sweden.
The original Grandiosa Classic pizza is the most popular of the range. It is topped with tomato sauce, ham, Jarlsberg cheese, and paprika. Annually it sells over 9 million pies.
"Norway is only a fraction of the size of the US, in terms of both landmass and population," said the brand representative. "Yet every year, our 5.3 million inhabitants consume 47 million frozen pizzas. And nearly 50 percent of those pizzas are Grandiosa frozen pizzas. In fact, Grandiosa is a brand so synonymous with Norwegian culture that in 2004, 20 percent of our population surveyed considered Grandiosa to be the unofficial national dish."
Last year, the brand saw a new sales record of 25.8 million pizzas sold. In the years prior, they sold approximately 20 million per year.
"Grandiosa has approximately 50 percent market share, and depending on how you define the brand we sold just short of 19 million more pizzas (in units) than the next best selling pizza brand in Norway in 2017 (the numbers are from retail only)," the company revealed. "However, if you look at all the frozen pizzas sold under the Dr. Oetker brand, we sold just short of 15 million more Grandiosa pizzas in units in 2017."
Grandiosa also has a number of sustainability measures in place in the factory in Stranda on Sunnmøre in Norway.
Firstly, their product is locally produced.
"To meet the competition from Dr. Oetker we needed to invest in new production-lines and upgrade the technology," they said. "We could have closed the factory at Stranda and built a new one close to Oslo. Instead we decided to invest 500 million Norwegian Krones at Stranda, because we know that it is important for the inhabitants of the town (200 employees is a lot in a small place with 4,623 inhabitants)."
The main ingredients are also sourced locally. They use cheese from Norwegian cows — 5,000 tons of cheese, which represent 13 million gallons of milk from 300 Norwegian farms. Most of the meat on the pizza is from Norwegian farmers.
This year they changed the packing around the d-pack (trading units) from cardboard box to plastic wrap. They did a life cycle analysis that showed that the environmental footprint was 20 percent lower when changing to the plastic wrap, which is recycled in the retail stores. And with this they reduce the transportation with 100 trucks every year (because of less volume).
"We are continually working with reducing the food waste in our fabrics, also at Stranda. And we participate in ENTOFÔR, an international research project headed by the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO), and the National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES) which seeks to develop expertise on insect farming based on feed generated from waste (we give them food waste so they can use it to feed the insects, and then use the insects to feed the salmon in aquaculture," she continues.
The marketing and communication part is really important for this brand, and the locals have really run with incorporating the brand into Norwegian culture.
There have even been songs made to advertise the pizza in Norway. In 2006, a song was made called “Respect for Grandiosa” to advertise for the new type of Grandiosa that came out. "It ended up staying on the billboard as the top most played song for a whole eight weeks. When another song was made later called 'Full pakke,' it also reached the top. 'Full Pakke' also came with a dance which spread like wildfire all over Norway in parties, night clubs and discos."
In 2005, Grandiosa got its own unofficial book called "GrandiosaLAND." The book is a collection of typical aspects of Norwegian pop culture, including recipes, song lyrics, russe-tips (russe is a high school graduate celebration, which is huge in Norway and last about three weeks before exams), quizzes, info about TV shows.
What is the secret to its success? Their answer is three-fold.
"Grandiosa has a very strong position in the hearts and minds of many Norwegians. New varieties of the baked dish may have contributed to its continued popularity. We have been very clever at innovating, hitting the mark with products that target local consumers and their preferences. We also have a great marketing and sales team," they boast.
It’s also not a expensive product. And price is really important for Norwegians.
And since most of the women are working full-time, they need quick dinner solutions that are easy to make.