Milwaukee-based Palermo Villa Inc. has teamed up with Netflix and Walmart to bring a product from the hit series “Stranger Things” into customers’ kitchens.
Palermo’s has the exclusive license to manufacture the “Surfer Boy Stranger Things Hand Tossed Crust Pizza,” just one of dozens of products that was launched as the fourth season of the wildly popular show was released this past May. The pizzas were also nominated in this year’s Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin contest.
Palermo’s was able to get the license to make the pizzas thanks to its already-strong existing relationship with Walmart. When Walmart learned that Netflix was looking to recreate the Surfer Boy brand of pizzas, Walmart recommended Palermo’s.
John Leonardo, senior director of marketing for Palermo’s, said the turnaround time between learning the company got the license and getting Surfer Boy pizzas on Walmart shelves was incredibly quick.
“This thing was on an accelerated timeline. The discussion really started taking place in December of 2021, and it was on the shelves in May of 2022,” said Leonardo. “We had to agree to the terms of the agreement, develop each of the pizzas and then develop the packaging. … There was a lot that had to happen in that timeframe.”
The Palermo’s team was mostly in the dark about season four of “Stranger Things” when developing the Surfer Boy pizza line. In fact, only a small group of people even knew about the license, and that group referenced the project with a code name.
“That was a challenge, obviously trying to provide guidance when you can’t quite share exactly what it is you’re trying to do,” Leonardo said.
Surfer Boy pizzas come in four varieties: pepperoni, supreme, multi-meat, and pineapple jalapeño, which is a favorite of “Stranger Things” character Argyle. The variety uses a milder jalapeno so those who are spice-averse might be willing to give it a try.
“When we looked at this, we wanted to make it as authentic to pizzeria carryout pizza as possible,” said Leonardo. “One of the things that we used is a hand-tossed style crust to replicate that whole idea that this came from takeout. It’s thinner in the middle but has this thicker edge.”
Everything that goes onto a Surfer Boy pizza is made on site at Palermo’s, except for the crust. Due to high demand, another supplier provides the crust, but Palermo’s does have the capability to make the crust in-house. Freshly cut Wisconsin cheese and pepperoni are placed onto each pizza on the manufacturing floor. The sauce has a sweeter profile to appeal to a younger demographic. The design of the Surfer Boy pizza box was also done internally.
“The line is doing exceptionally well. We are in about 3,500 Walmarts across the U.S.,” Leonardo said. “In only a couple of months, we have about a 1% market share of the entire category off of just four items and one retailer.”
The taste of the product was a high priority for Palermo’s. The company didn’t want Surfer Boy pizza to just be a gimmick but a brand that consumers truly consider when doing their shopping. The company was able to follow up with consumers who purchased the product via an online survey. Leonardo said 80% of people who bought a Surfer Boy pizza and ate it said it was as good as, or better than, carryout pizza.
“It’s reassuring to hear that consumers are having a good experience,” Leonardo said.
Palermo’s is currently discussing the possibility of extending the length of the license agreement with Netflix. It currently runs for one year.[caption id="attachment_558045" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Pinapple Jalapeño Surfer Boy Pizza from Palermo’s.[/caption]
Palermo Villa Inc. 3301 W. Canal St., Milwaukee INDUSTRY: Food manufacturing EMPLOYEES: 912 palermospizza.com
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