Keeping Outdoor Cooking Hot

Naomi Sleeper, Category Manager, Natural and Green Living, Imperial Distributors, Inc.

After a historically cold and snowy winter in New England, spring weather —and summer grilling season—is finally upon us. Spring and summer represent the best time for supermarkets to sell seasonal Non-foods through a relatively extended selling period. The barbecue season lasts long after National Grilling Month kicks off in May. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the welcome warm weather means great opportunity for supermarkets to meet consumers’ summer food preparation needs.

Outdoor cooking remains a focal point of summer feasts. According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPCA)’s most recent State of the Barbecue Industry Report, over 80% of households own an outdoor barbecue, grill or smoker. And they are using these outdoor cooking stations more often. Increased focus on health and wellness is drawing folks to their grills (commonly associated with healthful cooking) more regularly. “Weekend” no longer necessarily precedes “backyard barbecue.” As more Americans grill on weeknights, “homegating,” says barbecue blogger Stephen Rachlen, is transforming backyards into outdoor kitchens.

Outdoor cooking innovations—from clever grilling gadgets to outdoor gas and wood-fired ovens—mean there is no limit to what you can cook outside. While traditional grilling proteins—hamburgers, steaks, hot dogs and chicken—continue to reign, natural wood pellets are adding smoky flavor variety to these conventional barbecued meats. The most popular grilling utensils—long-handled tongs (used by 72% of grill owners), grill-cleaning brushes (68%), long-handled fork (60%) and long-handled spatulas (54%)—remain mainstays for these classic grilled foods. However, a broader range of barbecue tools are enhancing the popularity of seafood, pork, vegetables, pizza, even desserts on the outdoor grill menu. Specialized grilling baskets, meat probes, cooking stones and accessories make grilling versatile enough to make your outdoor kitchen into your only one this summer.

Barbecuing doesn’t stop at home. Portability remains a key trend for grills and smokers. Light-weight, durable, collapsible and all-terrain features mean you can easily take your newfound grill master techniques to the stadium parking lot, campsite and beach.

Easily lighting up portable charcoal grills and wood-fired ovens is also becoming greener. Environmentally safe fire-starters made from carbon neutral biomass can jumpstart your charcoal grill, wood-fired oven or outdoor fire-pit without harmful chemicals or unsustainable petroleum products.

The diverse range of barbecue cooking options and accompanying gadgets translate to optimal seasonal merchandising opportunities for grocery retailers. What is the best place for the grills, barbecue tools, wood chips, fire-starters and grilling accessories in your store? Everywhere! Meat, seafood, produce, frozen, sauces and spices…almost all departments are relevant. The best way to make a statement—and the most of seasonal grilling sales— is to drive the barbecue theme throughout the grocery perimeter and center store. With the right assortment and placement, your customers will be inspired…and so will their outdoor-cooked meals.

So, what is sizzling on your grill tonight?

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