Imagine the day when you can order SpongeBob SquarePants or the Los Angeles Lakers as a pizza topping. Well, dream no more. Tacoma, Washington-based Lucks Food Decorating Company has spent the last few months quietly amassing a stable of kid entertainment licenses that will soon be making their debuts on piping hot pizza. The 100-year-old company’s proprietary technology enables the creation of edible images that can stand up to the heat.
Launched in March, Lucks’ Pizza Fest branded edible images might seem like just a fun, quaint idea until you consider the volume of takeout pizza consumed yearly in the US. ‘Mom and Pop pizzerias account for three billion pizzas a year,’ says James Sachs, partner at Pennsylvania-based licensing consultancy Harris Sachs. And there are roughly 45,000 independent pizzerias pumping them out, making the pursuit of even a small slice of the market worthwhile.
With that in mind, Lucks CEO Rick Ellis enlisted Sachs to explore licensing possibilities for the product. After inking an exclusive distribution deal with the Richmond, Virginia-based Performance Food Groups’ Roma division – specialists in the distribution of food products to independent pizzerias throughout the US – Sachs turned his attention to finding more licenses to apply to the product.
‘We wanted to make this a grassroots effort,’ says Sachs, explaining that Roma distributes the product to hundreds of indie pizza parlors throughout the US. The edible licensed decals are then placed on the finished pizza, and about 40-seconds later they melt, fusing to the pie.
Positioning it as the ‘ultimate pizza topping,’ Sachs says the decals retail for between US$1.50 and US$3.50 apiece. However, he envisions high-margin/high-volume independent pizzeria owners using the product as more of a promotional tool.
‘Some operators aren’t going to charge customers for the decal because their margins are so big,’ Sachs says, adding he believes pizza places will use the edible images as a rallying point to host events themed around a particular property or sports team.
‘The pizza places can become party central,’ says Sachs. ‘They can have the cups, the paper plates, the napkins and now the pizza – all branded. The local pizzeria could have all sorts of point-of-sale material.’
On the licensing front, Lucks already has deals in place with Nickelodeon, NBA, NHL and WWE. Talks are also underway with Hasbro, Disney, HIT Entertainment and Marvel. But the company is always looking for more partners and was at Licensing Show in Vegas last month, scouring the event floor for potential partners.
Sachs says that since gaining national exposure in the US earlier this year, with mentions on Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon’s late night talk shows and ESPN, his Blackberry hasn’t stopped vibrating. ‘There is not much new going on in licensing right now,’ he says. ‘When something new comes along it has a tremendous ‘wow’ factor.’