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Taking Stock of Peak Season Grilling Trends

Consumers go for the meats, experiment with different foods and are hungry for new ideas
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Aldi grill
As grilling season is well underway, ALDI reports strong demand for fresh meats.

With the official arrival of summer on June 21, it’s peak time for grilling. Intrepid home cooks started firing their devices up a few weeks ago, and now that the season is in full sizzling swing, some trends are starting to emerge for 2023 cookouts.

Meat is a center-of-the-grill item. Scott Patton, VP of national buying at Batavia, Ill.-based ALDI, told Progressive Grocer that the retailer is experiencing strong demand for fresh meat. “In fact, on Memorial Day weekend, ALDI saw a 16% increase in fresh meat sales by unit year over year,” he said.

Although fresh meat prices have come down from their 2022 highs, many shoppers are still mindful of prices and switching around to different cuts of meat to toss on the grill, depending on the occasion. “During the summer we sell favorites like brats for 49% less than our competitors. That’s because ALDI makes deliberate decisions every day to champion value for customers. Shoppers can skip the butcher counter – and the added costs that come with it – while still getting the quality meat they’re looking for,” explained Patton, adding that meat purchases at ALDI have grown nearly 50% in the past five years.

Shoppers are also cooking up new products on their grills this summer. ALDI, for its part, recently added items such as grass-fed beef patties, seasoned tri-tips, thick-cut boneless pork chops and BBQ bacon-wrapped pork tenderloins, among other offerings. “During the summer season, we focus heavily on items we know customers will want to toss on the grill. When we decided on this product mix for the warmer months, we worked closely with our suppliers on consumer trends and what items would complement our core selection,” noted Patton.

Other products that have gotten off to a strong start include a new Certified Angus Grass-Fed by Niman Ranch, Prairie Fresh USA Prime pork by Seaboard Foods and McCormick Grill Mates Marinated Bacon, to name a few.

As consumers have gotten savvier after the pandemic era when they invested in new grilling equipment and brushed up on grilling techniques, they are widening their meat horizons, too. Buena Park, Calif.-based Brandt Beef, for example, is touting a variety of products during this year’s grilling season, such as its Prime Baseball cut, tri-tip steak and inside skirt steak.

Non-traditional foods find a spot on the rack. While meat is a core grilling food, many grocers have shared ideas for other types of foods that can be cooked over outdoor heat and flame. Dom's Kitchen & Market in Chicago, for example, recently shared tips for grilling cheese (hint: stick to semi-firm, high quality varieties) and frozen pizzas. Lunds & Byerlys of Minneapolis shared several ideas on its updated summer grilling pages, including grilled flatbread and grilled fruit kebobs.

Grilling events are back. After a hiatus over the past few years, consumers are going back to the store for grilling classes and events. The Kings Food Markets banner from Albertsons Cos. is offering a full slate of classes this summer, including a “Dinner by the Fire pit” course, “Burgers, Burgers, Burgers” session and “Great Grilling.” H-E-B’s Central Market brought in blogger Joy the Baker to host an online class on how to make dishes like campfire roasted bananas. In the Seattle area, PCC Community Markets put together a series of classes this year, including one on the “Best of Summer Cooking” and classes just for kids that include meals and snacks made outside.

Outdoor “kitchens” are lit. Another trend this summer is the use of more and different equipment to grill foods. Griddles and flat-top grills are big in 2023, as equipment makers like Westinghouse Grills, Blackstone and Cuisinart appeal to at-home foodies who want to try something different. Pizza ovens, which became a hit during the pandemic, are also popular this season and expanding into different formats, like a portable version from Everdure and Kingsford called the Cube 360.

This Fourth of July is shaping up to be a big one. This time around, inflation is taking less of a bite out of Independence Day cookouts, according to new data from e-commerce accelerator Pattern. According to Pattern, while beverage prices are still going up, prices of grill accessories are down 7% this year compared to last year, barbecue sauces are 4% lower and hot dogs cost 3% less than in 2022. Speaking of hot dogs, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council reports that Americans will enjoy 150 million hot dogs on the Fourth of July.

Many retailers are promoting their deals for Independence Day. Aldi, for its part, shared that shoppers can get their holiday cookout essentials for under $50 -- $46.86, to be exact – compared to the national average of $67.73 for 10 people. The retailer is also offering a Cookout Kickback Sweepstakes through July 11, with 1,000 customers randomly chosen to receive a $20.87 gift card. That amount is the monetary difference between Aldi’s cookout price and the national average.

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