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Mrs. Totino, the Uncontested Queen of Frozen Pizza

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Those of you who are eying the Totino’s: Mom Up video contest, maybe a bit of history will motivate you to submit an entry. Or maybe it’ll help you with the creative process for this competition.

Totino’s was founded by Jim and Rose Totino, then married, in 1951. They opened one of the first pizzerias in Minneapolis and began selling pre-baked and ready-to-eat pizza as a take-out business. The recipe for the dough and topping were original. The store was so successful that customers wanted to dine-in and enjoy the food as well. So the Totino’s provided that, and were making 400 to 500 pizzas a day.

A decade later, in 1962, they started a separate business, Totino’s Finer Foods, selling frozen pizza that could be baked at home. Rose insisted the crusts tasted like cardboard and called it “the industry standard cardboard crust.” Nevertheless, Totino’s became the first big name in the frozen pizza industry and a national phenomenon. Not satisfied with the crust, Rose continuously strived to make it better. She experimented with processes for freezing her pizza products, but found it difficult to freeze the crust so that it would be crisp after home baking.

Despite two plant expansions, Totino’s Finer Foods could not meet the demand for frozen pizza. Jim’s health failing, the Totinos analyzed the needs of their company, weighed their options and sold the company to the Minneapolis based-Pillsbury Company for $22 million. Rose then became Pillsbury’s first female corporate vice president.

Rose worked with Pillsbury scientists to perfect the crust. She and her colleagues devised a way to prepare pizza crust that is fried, rather than pre-baked. The concept of frying the crust came from the pizzas Rose’s mother had made at home. The result was a 1979 patent for a dough product specially designed for freezing and subsequent baking.

Jim Totino died in 1981. Rose continued as a valued advisor and ambassador for Totino’s products, and helped Pillsbury abandon the cardboard crusts and introduce Totino’s “Crisp Crust” Pizza to the nation.

The Totino’s brandbecame part of General Mills with its acquisition of Pillsbury in 2001. Over 300 million Totino’s pizzas are sold each year – more than 10 every second.

Rose Totino died of cancer in 1994. In 2008, she was inducted into the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame.

Obviously the story of Rose Totino is a special one. She was the someone who truly did ‘Mom Up’, but for the whole nation!

Her story should help with branding these entries. Do you have other ideas for branding with this competition? Tell us in the comments below!

Meme E

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