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.Quarantine Fatigue Gets Grilled

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The numbers behind outdoor cooking

Eager for a change of pace during the pandemic, many consumers made outdoor cooking their go-to activity, extending the art form beyond traditional grilling, or even the traditional grilling season. Consumers spent more than $4.9 billion on grills, smokers, camping stoves, accessories and fuel in 2020, according to new Enhanced Retail Tracking Service information on the home improvement industry from The NPD Group, which blends retailer point-of-sale data with insight from NPD’s receipt-based checkout information and additional data assets combined with advanced modeling.

“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 NPD. “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.”

More than 14 million grills and smokers were sold between April 2020 and February 2021, amounting to a 39% increase in dollar sales during the pandemic, 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.

The popular 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. Gas grills led the way, accounting for 54% of dollar sales in the back half of 2020, growing 37% compared to the same period in 2019. Charcoal grills and horizontal smokers both saw significant growth compared to the second half of 2019. However, after gas options, pellet grills drove the most dollar gains, reaching $189 million in sales with 52% growth over the prior 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, sales of camping stoves more than doubled 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,” Derochowski says. “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.”


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