Blog | Winning Grilling Season

Grilling season is upon us. Consumers’ top five grilling occasions fall between May and September,1 making summer prime time to drive volume at retail.

Grilling season is a critical time of year not just for meat, but for all the other items that come with grilling and barbecue: condiments, spices, produce, side dishes, chips, beverages, charcoal, housewares, party supplies and more. It is essentially the “Christmas of the Summer” for many food CPG brands, and those that get in front of consumers early in the season and keep themselves top of mind often win a spot in their pantry all summer and year-round. Brands and retailers can work to stay relevant to consumers by providing engaging grilling tips, cross-promoting various grill supplies and merchandising products specifically geared to grillers. In short, opportunity abounds, and the Signal Theory FoodThink experts have compiled their top tips for winning grilling season.

Seventy-seven percent of U.S households own a gas, charcoal or electric grill,but according to Signal Theory FoodThink research, more than half (51 percent) of consumers are not confident using it and consider their skills to be average at best.3 Food marketers should look to instill confidence in nervous grillers every step of the way.

Equip them with the right gear.

Share guides on choosing, prepping and cleaning a grill as well as grill safety. Retailers should make sure essentials like charcoal, utensils and cleaning equipment are merchandised where they can’t be missed. Display them at the front of the store or by the checkouts.

Take the fear out of cooking meat.

Meat is often a high-ticket item that consumers are afraid to get wrong, so the “steaks” are high. Make meat less overwhelming by showing them how to choose between cuts and indicate which of your products are great for grilling. Offer on-pack and take-home cooking tips and use digital content to provide grilling tips and recipes.

Inspire them to try new things.

Grilling is by no means exclusive to meat, so be sure to include produce in your grilling guides. In-store (or in this case, outside-the-store) demos are a great way to get consumers to think differently about products they see every day. Show them that vegetables they might usually roast are great for grilling and that fruit slightly caramelized on the grill is a fantastic dessert option.

Winning grilling season does not come down to food alone. Thirty-four percent of Americans have entertained family or friends at home in the past year,2 and cooking is just one part of that. Assisting consumers in their hosting efforts can be as valuable as offering them the right products.

Awaken their inner party planner.

Beyond food, help grillers think about how to set the mood for the perfect BBQ or cookout. The lighting, music, decorations, plates and napkins, the drinks – the list goes on and on. It’s easy to overlook the small details that can make or break a great cookout, so offer consumers tips on how to make it all come together. Use social media to connect with consumers on a conversational level about their role as host. Bloggers and vloggers are also a great source of guidance here. In-store, make sure consumers can locate party supplies as easily as they can meat and produce.

Encourage them to engage their guests.

Above all, guests want to have fun, and one of the best ways to ensure that is by incorporating them into the party. Give hosts tips on creating an entertaining atmosphere, whether it’s involving them in the food preparation (like a build-your-own-burger topping station) or simply having fun games available while the burgers cook. Cornhole, anyone?

During grilling season many consumers are looking for ways to cut down on prep time or eliminate steps altogether. According to FoodThink, 94 percent of consumers purchase a precooked, premade, preassembled or frozen convenience food item at least once per month.4 Though these products help make grilling easier, many consumers don’t feel guilty about incorporating them into their meals. In fact, more than a third (36 percent) of consumers say that even if they use premade side dishes with their meal, they still consider it “cooking.”4 Convenience items can make the difference between a laborious, weekend-only event and a regular weeknight dinner.

Save them steps.

Items such as pre-marinated meat, preassembled burger patties, and presliced cheese and veggies are especially good for nervous grillers and should be heavily promoted during grilling season. Consumers’ lack of time or skill doesn’t have to mean a lack of quality or flavor, plus they remain connected to their food by being the cook, despite not preparing all of it.

Do it for them.

Ready-to-eat products like premade salads and side dishes (like potato salad or mac and cheese) are smart product offerings to feature during grilling season. Consider cross-promoting these items to meat purchasers. Retailers can cater to those seeking quick, hot sides by making dishes to order or allowing consumers to call ahead. Restaurateurs can benefit from this too by offering family-style takeout sides that consumers can easily pick up or have delivered.

Amping up your education, inspiration and convenience games is the key to winning grilling season. Follow this guide to ensure you and your consumers are prepared for one of sun, smoke and, of course, sales.

Visit the Signal Theory FoodThink library of free white papers for more valuable insights into consumers and how to tailor your marketing to them.


Statista 2018
GfK MRI Doublebase 2017
Signal Theory FoodThink 2012
Signal Theory FoodThink 2016

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