By Katie Byard
Beacon Journal staff writer
A local man says he’s upped the ante for gluten-free eaters searching for pizza in their grocer’s frozen-food section.
Steve Neid, longtime maker of frozen fat-free pizzas, touts his new gluten-free version as “super organic,” hitting big healthful-diet bases. Beginning this week, the pizza is available at all 15 Acme Fresh Markets.
It has been USDA certified organic, Neid said, and “the big thing is it has raw cheese” — non-homogenized cheese made at a small dairy in Pennsylvania with milk from grass-fed cows.
“It’s been a painstaking effort to make sure every spice, every component was certified organic,” the 47-year-old said.
Oh, and it’s also non-GMO, meaning it doesn’t contain any genetically engineered ingredients.
Neid, whose day job is teaching economics at Akron’s Ellet High School, sells the gluten-free pizzas under his Pizza Fit ’n Free label.
Jon Albrecht, director of Center Store Sales at Acme, said he decided to try selling the gluten-free pies after a taste test. “You can almost taste that they’re healthy — he’s really using quality products,” Albrecht said.
The 7-inch cheese pizzas sell at Acme for $5.95. That’s not cheap, Neid and Albrecht acknowledge. Neid said the price reflects the cost of the ingredients — he has the crust and other items “made to specifications,” he said. “We’re working off slimmer margins,” he stressed.
For his part, Albrecht has to be selective about what Acme Fresh Markets stock. There’s only so much space in the frozen food sections. “We can’t stack frozen pizzas high in our lobby like we can with paper towels,” he noted.
Still, Albrecht said, the Akron-headquartered grocery chain wants to support local businesses with quality products. He liked Neid’s passion for his product. Also, Albrecht said Neid “has got a different niche” than other makers of gluten-free pizzas. “We’re trying to put a quality product out there,” Albrecht said. “Hopefully it catches on.”
Acme stores carry at least one national brand of gluten-free pizza.
Neid, a fitness enthusiast, has been making fat-free pizzas since 1991. Initially, he sold them in grocery stores, and eventually began selling them online. He’s also pitched his fat-free pizzas on QVC, one time selling thousands in a matter of minutes.
“Back in the 1990s, everything was fat-free,” Neid said.
He ventured into gluten-free after customers began asking about the option.
These days, he and part-time workers assemble pizzas on weekends at a small space in Wedgewood Plaza in Akron’s Ellet neighborhood. The plaza is anchored by an Acme.
“We’re weekend warriors,” Neid said, explaining that the “profitability isn’t there” for him to scrap his teaching job and make the company a full-time gig.
Also, Neid said, “I love teaching.” And he has a ready source of real-life lessons to discuss in class.
His pizzas, in various sizes, are also available online at www.pizzafree.com.