Americans Taking Their Enhanced Cooking Skills Outdoors

    Cooking, grilling

    As Americans spent more time in the safety of their homes during the past 12 months, many found their culinary chops and improved their cooking skills.

    Now, as the spring weather warms much of the country, home chefs are expected to transition their meal-making endeavors from the kitchen to their backyards, which could provide retailers with new selling opportunities in the weeks ahead.

    “The need to cook more meals at home combined with the desire to experiment with new ways to create those meals helped fuel growth for almost all types of grills,” said Joe Derochowski, home industry advisor at The NPD Group. “Layer on our cravings to be less confined, safe, and create an experience during the pandemic, and we get sales growth not only in the core grilling months but also before and after.”

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    Figures from NPD’s Enhanced Retail Tracking Service show that consumers spent more than $4.9 billion on grills, smokers, camping stoves, accessories and fuel in 2020. More than 14 million grills and smokers were sold between April 2020 and February 2021, amounting to a 39% increase in dollar sales, compared to the same period a year ago. 

    Beyond the peak grilling sales season between April and June, which accounted for 43% of the year’s sales, the second half of 2020 saw a continuation of strong performance with dollar growth in excess of 50%. October and November had stronger year-over-year sales growth than the 58% dollar increase seen in May 2020.

    Gas and charcoal options made up two-thirds of the units sold, but nearly every type of grill or smoker saw growth between June and December last year. 

    Products with specialized uses and smaller investments also contributed significantly to sales. Portable grills and the outdoor cooking segment, which included products like pizza ovens and turkey fryers, were among the fastest-growing in the category in terms of unit sales. Similarly, camping stoves more than doubled their sales in the second half of 2020.

    “Camping vacations, Friday-night pizza, trying a new roast recipe, and smoking the Thanksgiving turkey are the kinds of activities helping to fuel growth beyond the core gas and charcoal grill options,” says Derochowski. “Consumers have turned pandemic-driven boredom into an opportunity to experiment with cooking, and the wide range of grilling and outdoor cooking options are helping them do it.”