Gas Grills Return
By Lisa Readie Mayer
It’s been a long time coming, but things are finally looking up for manufacturers and retailers of gas grills.
“The gas grill category showed growth in 2013, for the first time in five years,” according to Dale Wytiaz, president, Americas, at Weber-Stephen Products. “It was only single-digit growth, but this is still great news considering the category had been flat for some time.”
Although the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association’s year-end grill shipment data was not available at press time, Weber, which does business across multiple channels, has excellent insight into the barbecue marketplace.
“This is great news. As a company, we have been growing, but the entire category needs to grow to sustain it,” adds Wytiaz. “Category growth helps everybody.”
Premium gas grill manufacturers also experienced a sales surge in 2013 and are expressing optimism for the coming year. Brian Eskew, marketing manager at Twin Eagles, says the company’s high-end Twin Eagles line saw double-digit growth last year, and its four-year-old, lower-priced Delta Heat “value line” was up a staggering 300 percent between 2012 and 2013.
“None of our dealers are complaining, like they were in 2012, about sales being off,” he says. In fact, so bullish on the future is Twin Eagles that the company just purchased an additional 27,000 sq. ft. facility adjacent to its current location to expand production and keep up with demand.
So what trends are emerging in the specialty gas grill marketplace? Rob Schwing, general manager of Saber Grills, a division of Char-Broil sold exclusively through independent retailers, says specialty dealers are looking for grills that are not available in every store on the block.
“They want unique, quality products to better compete against Big Box and even other specialty retailers,” he says. Offering built-in gas grills is a proven differentiator, according to Schwing, who notes Saber’s own built-in models have surpassed initial sales projections for the past two years.
Another emerging trend, according to manufacturers, is that more dealers are insisting on American-made grills in response to the growing number of consumers who factor this attribute into purchase decisions.
As for features, Wytiaz says colorful finishes are becoming more popular on grills priced $1,000 and below, but stainless steel still rules on higher-end models.
“Color has proven a great opportunity to get younger grillers and female customers into the game,” he says. “They see it as an accent to their outdoor furniture.”
Eskew says 60 percent of Twin Eagles’ customers are opting for features such as sear zones and rotisseries. He also notes that while most people want three- and four-burner grills, its largest 54 in. unit has had a much bigger audience than expected.
“There are still many people who want the biggest and the best, and once a consumer decides they’re going to spend $5,000 or more for a grill, it’s not much of a leap to the next level if it’s right for their entertaining style.”
On the flip side, Eskew says good-quality, value-priced gas grills are becoming a “very important and meaningful” market segment. Rather than cannibalizing sales of higher-priced grills, he says value lines have helped dealers grow sales by opening the specialty arena to a broader group of consumers.
Despite the undercurrent of excitement in the category, manufacturers seem to be taking a conservative approach to new product introductions this year. Rather than launching brand new products and technology, or undertaking major overhauls of existing lines, many manufacturers are making only minor enhancements, tweaks and upgrades to their gas grills. Manufacturers say this strategy is actually designed to benefit dealers in the short term.
Schwing says creating models with a longer-term perspective limits the need for dealers to continually change floor samples and update displays, something he says is “a big investment for them. It also makes servicing grills easier when burners and cooking grate styles don’t change from year to year,” he adds.
Eskew says conversations with Twin Eagles’ dealers revealed they, too, are happy with the brand’s existing products, so the company will join the ranks of manufacturers who are sticking with their current offerings in 2014.
“Yes, it’s exciting having new products to talk about, but it creates difficulties as well, particularly when it comes to built-in units,” says Eskew. “It’s hard for dealers to modify existing displays, so they don’t always like new introductions. You have to strike a balance.”
Assuming Mother Nature cooperates, can we expect a return to the good old gas grill days this year?
“The days before 2008, when people paid little attention to prices and purchased things they couldn’t afford on credit, are gone for good,” notes Eskew. “But dealers seem very optimistic and expect a solid, steady growth trend in 2014.”
The P4 4-Burner Drop-In BBQ Grill is constructed of 304 stainless steel and features four 60,000 Btu, cast stainless-steel burners with an easy-start ignition system. The full-width rotisserie bar has a 15,000 Btu infrared back-burner. An easy-to-read temperature gauge monitors grill heat levels and a vented front splashguard prevents grease build up on burner control knobs.
From Cal Flame; visit www.calflamebbq.com.
Gas to Charcoal Grill
Transform a gas grill to a charcoal grill with an optional charcoal tray. Simply replace sear plates with the charcoal tray, fill with charcoal and light using gas burners. Replace cooking grids for charcoal grilling as well. The tray can be used with a Napoleon Prestige P500RSIB that features infrared rear rotisserie burner and infrared sizzle zone sideburner.
From Napoleon Gourmet Grills; visit www.napoleongrills.com.
Heat Retaining Grill
The Made in America Cross Flame gas grill can be easily built in along with the Caliber Thermashell Pro charcoal grill/smokers. The Thermashells use high performance insulation and a patented flue system to retain heat and outperform typical clay kamado grills. Hand fabricated entirely from 304 stainless steel, the products will not crack and can be cleaned using normal oven cleaning products.
From Caliber Range; visit www.caliberappliances.com.
Cooking in Style
Here’s the new Fire Magic A790i grill with a double sideburner, double access door and Fire Magic fridge – all built into the new pre-fabricated island designed specifically for Fire Magic equipment. Constructed from durable GFRC, the barbecue island is easily assembled on site and makes a stunning statement. Shown here is the Cafe Blanco base with contrasting polished GFRC smoke countertop for a handsome concrete look.
From R.H. Peterson; visit www.rhpeterson.com.
Best of Both Worlds
Take any Twin Eagles Premium Charcoal Grill and add a Twin Eagles Charcoal Tray and you have the perfect combination – the convenience of gas and the flavor of charcoal. The Charcoal Tray is all stainless steel with a built-in ash collector for easy cleaning. Place the charcoal tray over the existing grill burner to light the briquettes or lump wood charcoal.
From Twin Eagles; visit www.twineaglesbbq.com.
Hard Working Grill
The Saber R50CC0312 has three burners, grate-level temperature gauges and an infrared cooking system that dispenses heat evenly across the cooking surface. This eliminates flare-ups and uses 30 percent less gas than comparable grills. The chef can change the grill from propane to natural gas easily with the patented EZNG conversion kit.
From Saber Grills; visit www.sabergrills.com.
Hot Grill for Cold Temps
The PRO Grill is a high performance product designed for cold climates but it will heat well in all temperatures with durable, heavy-duty, portable all-terrain design. The PRO can be transported via a two-in. Class III receiver hitch or horizontally in the bed of a pick-up truck, SUV or all-terrain via large heavy-duty solid dolly wheels (no air or flat tires). A dolly handle on the back acts as a rest; the handle can be used to maneuver the grill on the dolly wheels across rough terrain. Locking swivel casters on the front allow the PRO to be used as a patio grill in the backyard.
From Party King Grills; visit www.partykinggrills.com.
Hybrid Grilling Drawers sit between the cooking surface and burners of the grill. Chefs can drop wood or charcoal into the drawers and use the burners below to light the solid fuel. For pure charcoal or wood fire, simply turn off the burners. As solid fuel burns down, supplemental heat is added by turning the burners back on. Ash from burnt wood falls into the Deep Hopper funnel and then into a clean-out bin.
From Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet; visit www.kalamazoogourmet.com.
The Cape Fear Combo grill offers the convenience of both gas and charcoal. The left side features a 30-in. two-burner gas grill; the right side features a 30-in. charcoal grill with flame height adjustment and easy-to-clean ashtray. Other features are heavy gauge 304 stainless-steel construction with cast stainless-steel burners and a seven-year warranty.
From Wilmington Grill; visit www.wilmingtongrill.com
Unique Coyote Grilling
Offering two separate fireboxes, the Centaur Hybrid Grill is a one-of-a-kind split hood stainless-steel grill. It includes two high-powered Coyote iBurners on one side for gas grilling and a commercial, fully adjustable charcoal and woodchip tray for grilling or smoking on the other.
From Coyote Outdoor Living; visit www.coyoteoutdoor.com.