I’ve written often in the past about the plethora of frozen pizza brands manufactured in Minnesota and Wisconsin. There’s Totinos, Jenos, and Red Baron, Tony’s, Freschetta, Roma, Bellatoria, Brew Pub, Orv’s, Palermo’s, and many others that have reached national and super-regional distribution status. In addition to these, there are a host of smaller manufacturers which only distribute “close to home”. One such company is Kettle River Pizza, in tiny Askov, Minnesota, which puts out their pies to restaurants, bars, groceries and c-stores in parts of Minnesota.
Started in 1986, and purchased by new owners in 2002, who upgraded facilities and capacity, Kettle River make over a dozen different varieties of frozen pies, in 7″, 9″, and 12″ sizes.
I ran into one in a C store the other day, and it was the 4 Meat style (beef, sausage, c-bacon and pepperoni), at 22 ounces for $8.50. That’s a hefty price for frozen pizza, but I chalked it up to C-store pricing, it’s probably a couple bucks less in the grocery, which would make it market competitive in the premium frozen pizza segment.
Instructions call for 10-15 minutes at 375, and the label cautions best results are achieved with a 30 minute thaw prior to baking. Don’t think I have seen that instruction on a frozen pizza before, but I complied.
Minnesotans love their thin crusts, and Kettle River falls in the “not thick, not thin but in-between” category, is crispy around the edges and chewy as you work inward. It almost reminded me (in a good way) of matzoh dough, for the way it puffed up in places during baking. Kettle River has a cheese blend, of some whites, and some yellows. At least some of the topping meats were Hormel product, as their logo adorns the label.
The sauce is mild, and I am fond of the sausage, which is good-sized and flavorful. If you’re a frequent reader, you know I often take exception to frozen pies that have those tiny sausage crumbles, just a personal preference. Toppings on Kettle River are on the generous side.
But what really makes the pie is the quality and quantity of cheese, which melts and bubbles well, and covers the circle edge to edge well. It’s a good product, and the owners should be proud of their efforts.
In my off-line life, I have some knowledge of food industry mergers, and while I have never seen a smaller company gobbled up because of their recipe or quality, but rather for market share or distribution area, if the big guys ever started going out shopping for quality recipes and processes, Kettle River would surely be a target. If their products were distributed in my area, I’d be a frequent customer. Here’s a product locator, to help you find them near you.
Kettle River Pizza Review