A Tool for Every Task
By Lisa Readie Mayer
Are you about to close the deal on a premium grill, smoker, pizza oven or outdoor kitchen? Don’t stop there. Outdoor cooking accessories are an easy way to bump up that sale with very little time and effort.
For dealers, accessories can be a game-changer. They add excitement to the store, are an easy way to upsell, earn good margins, take up little floor and inventory space, and inspire repeat customer visits. For customers, accessories are fun and food-centric, help to create All-Star-worthy dishes at the grill, and won’t break the bank. Rarely is there a product category that’s as much of a win-win.
|Flame-Friendly Ceramic Grillware from The Companion Group.|
There’s just one problem: Sometimes specialty retailers forget to push them. But ignoring grilling accessories means you’re leaving money on the table.
According to Niki Gross, marketing communications manager at The Companion Group, “Specialty dealers do very well with the category when they are able to talk directly with the consumer and explain why a specific accessory is important or how it can enhance the barbecue experience. If a consumer is spending, say, $600 or more on a grill, $20 more for an accessory like a smoker box and wood chips is a very small price to add on.”
The category is getting a lot more attention thanks to new products that help backyard chefs tap into popular food and cooking trends.
“The accessory business is very strong in both specialty and mass retailers today,” says Kim Lefko, executive vice president Marketing, Americas, for Weber. “We expect to see 15- to 20-percent growth over the next two to three years.”
Most barbecue accessories can be grouped into sub-segments such as essentials, consumables, replacement parts, and food prep and cooking. “Essentials” includes items such as grill brushes, tongs, spatulas, chimney lighters, covers, cleaners, and other basic implements for lighting, maintaining and cooking on the grill. These products, along with consumables such as sauces, seasonings and fuels, typically have high turnover because they’re frequently replaced or replenished, according to Lefko.
|Fornetto ceramic large bread cloche from Alfresco Home.|
Replacement parts are subject to the whims of the economy, selling like hotcakes when people’s budgets are lean, and slowing down when consumers can afford to buy a new grill. Bo Richardson of replacement parts company Music City Metals says, “The economy from 2008 through 2012 was great for the replacement parts business. But regardless of the economic conditions, it’s steady business and gets customers in the door.”
Interestingly, according to retailers, customers who come in for a replacement part often decide to purchase a new grill instead – another win-win.
Food Accessories In the Fast Lane
Food-oriented grillware gets consumers most excited, according to Lefko. “It’s where the real growth is,” she says. Backyard chefs are eager to try paella pans, bacon cookers, pizza stones, vegetable grillers, S’mores kits, jalapeno racks, Himalayan salt plates, cedar planks, and other products that follow food trends and add versatility to the outdoor cooking experience.
“Technology is the hot-button for our generation, and lately we hear a lot more about technology being incorporated into barbecue grills and accessories,” says Joe Cilio, president and CEO of Alfresco Home. “That’s important, but it’s still really all about the flavor and fun. We’re selling a lifestyle, and accessories help support that lifestyle.”
Case in point: With pizza ovens growing in popularity, companies are introducing ceramic cookware that can handle the high heat of these appliances. Alfresco Home’s Fornetto ceramic stoneware includes Dutch ovens, roasting dishes and serving platters. The Companion Group’s Flame-Friendly Ceramic Grillware is fireproof, heat resistant up to 700 degrees, and comes in pans, griddles, toppers and more.
|Mr. Pizza pizza stone and peel from Blue Rhino.|
Cast-iron cookware is in vogue in the indoor kitchen and now it’s a trend outdoors, as well.
“We’re seeing a great deal of interest from retailers in cast-iron products,” says Chris Hartley, vice president Marketing for Blue Rhino. “They are a high-heat and naturally non-stick surface.” The company’s extensive new line of Mr. Bar-B-Q cast-iron cookware features a reversible griddle, deep-dish pan, perforated topper and garlic roaster.
Man Law offers cast-iron skillets, griddles and Dutch ovens for the grill, and Onward Manufacturing’s GrillPro line now includes cast-iron Dutch ovens, skillets, panini presses and fajita pans.
Pizza grilling accessories from stones to peels to calzone makers remain strong sellers for Big Green Egg, Napoleon, Weber, Bull, Man Law, Kamado Joe, The Companion Group’s Pizzacraft line, Blue Rhino’s Mr. Pizza line, and virtually every company that offers grilling accessories.
“Smoking and imparting smoke flavor into the barbecue experience is huge and continues to grow,” says Gross. Not surprisingly, there’s a proliferation of products to help consumers create low-and-slow smoked barbecue, or add smoke flavor to foods cooked on a traditional gas or charcoal grill.
|Mr. Bar-B-Q cast-iron cookware.|
The patented Smokenator fits in the base of a charcoal kettle and converts it to a smoker.
“At $65, it’s a ‘working man’s smoker,’” says Stephanie Thompson, company president. “It’s easy to use, gives good results, and you don’t have to invest in a smoker grill.” The Ribalizer is a patented rack system that fits inside two standard disposable aluminum pans and creates fall-off-the-bone, smoky barbecued ribs on a gas grill in just two hours.
Wood chips smolder inside Montana Grills’ Smokerin Smoker Set, a perforated stainless-steel tube that sits on a gas grill’s diffuser bars for lighting and then is moved up to the grilling grate to infuse foods with smoky flavor.
“It’s become one of our best-selling accessory products,” says Nick Bansal, account manager for Villa Olympic, manufacturer of Montana Grills accessories. “Retailers bundle it with wood chips and it does well as a gift item.”
A-Maze-N Products offers several smoker accessories, including the pellet-burning A-Maze-N-Tube-Smoker, which can be used as a cold-smoker or to add supplemental smoke while grilling on a gas or pellet grill. Other variations of gas grill smoker boxes are offered by The Companion Group, Onward Manufacturing, Man Law, Weber, Bull, and many more.
According to Eric Halberg of Man Law, accessories that save storage space are trending. As people collect more and more grilling accessories, storing them all becomes a challenge. Man Law, Weber, Montana Grills and other accessory brands have introduced tools with handles that fold or retract for compact storage. A host of new accessories, such as Man Law’s 5-in-1 Multifunctional Grill Topper, Weber’s Elevations Tiered Cooking System, and Napoleon’s reversible rib/roaster rack, can tackle multiple grilling techniques with one gadget.
Wire-bristle grill brushes have been in the news lately, and for the wrong reasons. Media reports of dislodged bristles being ingested by consumers have triggered scrutiny of the products, and are inspiring new grid-cleaning alternatives.
The Great Scrape Woody Paddle by Thompson Brothers & Company is a solid oak paddle that conforms to the shape of cooking grates while scraping them clean. The GrillStone Cleaning Block by Earthstone International is a pumice-like block made from recycled glass that safely cleans all types of grilling surfaces. The Companion Group’s patented new Spiral Grill Brush has an inverted triangle brush head with twisted wires to secure the brush’s bristles and reduce bristle loss.
How to Sell More
Merchandising accessories is the secret to sales success, according to Hartley. “Accessories are impulse items, so make sure they are very visible. Display them on or near grills, or near the checkout area, especially as the weather warms or in advance of key holidays like Memorial Day, Father’s Day, and July 4.”
Hartley also recommends incorporating accessories into cooking classes and demos to help
customers understand how easy the items are to use and to see the variety of dishes that can be prepared on a grill.
“When customers see exactly how accessories are used – as opposed to seeing them hanging on a peg – they get noticed,” adds Gross, and purchased.
Sounds like a win-win.