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Grocers Gear Up for Memorial Day

What shoppers are seeking ahead of long holiday weekend
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Pepsi Grills Night Out
Pepsi partnered with Chef Bobby Flay for a 2024 Memorial Day grilling promotion.

The hard launch of summer is coming up this Memorial Day weekend, when Americans gather to celebrate the warm weather season and, on Monday, May 27, honor military service members who sacrificed their lives. According to data and tech company Numerator, 57% of U.S. consumers plan to take part in some kind of festivities this weekend, with 52% set on grilling, 29% cooking or baking at home and 17% hosting others at their home. 

It’s a big eating and drinking event, of course. Numerator reports that 95% of celebrants plan to make purchases, with food and beverages at the top of the list. Grocery stores remain the primary destination, drawing 65% of those who plan to celebrate, followed by big box stores at 47% liquor stores at 24% and discount/dollar stores at 18%. 

[RELATED: Progressive Grocer’s 91st Annual Report - How Grocers Are Connecting the Dots]

As the three-day occasion approaches, grocers are ramping up their offerings and promotions.

Hot Deals

Although grocery prices are now falling across several categories as inflation eases, consumers remain price conscious and continue to look for deals when preparing for home celebrations. Data insights firm Upside projects that the average Memorial Day grocery store visit will set shoppers back $50.21, up slightly from last year but not by much. 

Many food retailers are accordingly focused on savings for the weekend. For example, The Kroger Co. announced this week that it is offering “locked-in-low prices” on grilling essentials, with a barbecue bundle priced as little as $4 per person featuring essentials such as Kroger brand lean ground beef chuck home-style hamburger patties, Kroger brand brown sugar hickory baked beans, Kroger brand classic garden salad bags and bakery white frosted sugar cookies, among other items. 

Likewise, Target recently announced a rollback of regular prices on many popular items, including summer favorites. Also this week, Midwest grocer Meijer and e-comm partner Shipt shared that they are partnering in a multi-week Summer of Savings event that starts on Memorial Day weekend, when Shipt customers shopping for grilling essentials can save $10 on orders of $35 or more. Additionally, shoppers who order from Meijer on the Shipt app or at are automatically entered into an Ultimate Summer Grilling Essentials Sweepstakes, with prizes including a year’s worth of groceries, outdoor grilling essentials and more. 

Summertime Essentials & Innovations

As the season changes, so does the shelf, as suppliers roll out new products across several categories.

This year, barbecue expert and author Steven Raichlen is teaming up with Bib & Tucker Small Batch Bourbon to offer recipes made with bourbon including the new Double Char spirit that has been aged twice for a smoky flavor and smooth finish. 

Grocers can promote a variety of new and existing products for peak grilling season, as consumers get creative with what they are putting over the flames and heat. According to data from Advantage Solutions, 88% of consumers plan on grilling this summer, with 93% planning on serving grilled vegetables, 98% intending to use sauce and more than a quarter (27%) saying they will flip burgers a few time a month. 

[RELATED: What's 'Hot' On the Grill?]

“According to our recent survey, 75% of respondents always or often look for meat on sale during grilling season,” said Gil Phipps, SVP, global customer solutions for Advantage Solutions. “Take chicken, for instance. People eat chicken all year long, but in summer they prepare it differently, and the parts they prefer change. People buy a lot more chicken thighs to go on a grill than when they’re cooking inside. Inside, people cook a lot more chicken breast, which is not the best chicken to put on the grill. But chicken thighs off the grill are glorious.”

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Lipton hard iced tea
Lipton is venturing into the canned adult beverage category with a new hard iced tea.

Cheers to Summer

Beverages are also big for Memorial Day and summer entertaining. Numerator’s data shows that beer is still the most popular alcoholic beverage, with 76% of those buying alcohol preferring to purchase beer. Wine is second per Numerator’s insights, followed by spirits/spirit-based drinks and hard seltzers and canned cocktails.

Shoppers will have more choices in this arena this year, as beverage makers launch new offerings. The venerable Lipton brand, for its part, is adding a new Hard Iced Tea made with real brewed tea with a triple-filtered malt base and available in flavors like Lemon, Peach, Strawberry, Citrus Green Tea and Half & Half. The Labatt beer brand, meantime, is introducing a new fruit-flavored light pilsner, Blue Light Raspberry Lemon.

In keeping with recent trends, mocktails and non-alcoholic drinks are also poised to be on the table at barbecues, picnics and other holiday celebrations. “There will always be a place for a cold beer on a hot summer day. But 21% of respondents to our recent survey on the 2024 grilling season said that mocktails will always or often make an appearance when they’re hosting a BBQ,” reported Andy Keenan, EVP and general manager at Advantage Solutions

Traditional refreshing summer beverage brands are gearing up for Memorial Day with new promotions, too. PepsiCo, for its part, is unveiling "Grills Night Out," a new campaign touting Pepsi as ideal beverage to accompany grilling. The campaign features tips from chef, author and TV personality Bobby Flay and a special sweepstakes with partner Instacart. 

Supporting Service

While touting staples for Memorial Day get-togethers, retailers are also taking time to honor current and former service members and those who gave their lives for their country.

"As our nation gathers to honor our fallen heroes, we stand in tribute to those men and women and salute active-duty military personnel home and away for their unrelenting courage and patriotism,” said Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen. Over the last decade, Kroger has hired more than 50,000 veterans in stores, technology, logistics and other roles and shared that it is the largest cumulative donor to the United Service Organizations (USO) in the organization's 82-year history.

During the holiday weekend, Walgreens is offering a special discount to all veteran, active-duty military personnel and their immediate family members. From May 24-27, customers with a myWalgreens membership and valid military ID or proof of service will receive 20% off regularly priced products at any Walgreens or Duane Reade drugstore nationwide. 

The Fresh Market will celebrate and honor military personnel by offering a 10% Off total purchase discount (excluding alcohol & gift cards) on Monday, May 27. Customers will be asked to present a valid military I.D. to receive the discount, which also includes spouses of military personnel with their military I.D. as well.

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