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    Grilling Stretches Traditional Seasonal Boundaries

    Savvy grocers should cast a wider net with their promotions

    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ

    Much like diehard golfers, who are dusting off their clubs as soon as they see the first blades of grass poking up through the late-winter snow, dedicated outdoor chefs start itching to fire up their grills as soon as weather forecasts start heralding warmer temperatures.

    But according to the latest consumer trend studies, savvy grocers should cast a wider net with their grilling promotions.

    “The grill is not just a summer pleasure anymore,” asserts the 2015 edition of Acosta Sales & Marketing’s “The Why? Behind the Buy” report. The 12th installment from Jacksonville, Fla.-based Acosta reveals that 61 percent of shoppers who grill reported that they’re doing so eight or more months of the year, with that figure jumping to 68 percent for the all-important Millennial demographic.

    Indeed, grills are near the top of the list of Millennials’ most favored cooking devices, according to The NPD Group’s David Portalatin, who presented earlier this year at the Annual Meat Conference, hosted by the North American Meat Association (NAMI) and Food Marketing Institute (FMI).

    Still, summer reigns as a key sales period for grocery retailers, from meat and vegetables to sides and accessories. According to the Acosta study, hamburgers and chicken are the most popular foods to grill. Grocers looking to maximize American consumers’ love for outdoor cooking should keep that in mind, as well as leverage this year’s key trends, including bold flavors, creative recipes, unique cuts and renewed attention on an old favorite, beef.

    Grills Boldly Going

    “This year, we expect to see a twist on traditional summer grilling flavors,” says Adam Golomb, director of marketing for Pittsburgh-based supermarket chain Giant Eagle. “Look for smokers to grow in popularity, and for barbecue sauces and dry rubs to feature bold flavors like bourbon and bacon.”

    That trend is also anticipated by Wichita, Kan.-based meat supplier Cargill Inc. “Consumers are looking for a range of bold flavors, and there are many seasoning options they can use for turkey and beef that will deliver delicious and diverse eating experiences straight from the grill,” says Mike Martin, Cargill’s director of communications.

    More shoppers are seeking assertive, international flavors such as those from Asian and African spices, Martin confirms. “These flavors are perfect for beef and turkey marinades this grilling season,” he says. “In a recent study of fresh meat consumers, Cargill identified an important consumer group which represents approximately 25 percent of red-meat sales. Sixty-four percent of this consumer group reported they want meats seasoned with international sauces.”

    Martin advises retailers to launch promotions that “highlight beef and turkey cuts together with displays for bold seasonings, flavorful sauces, and bright, fresh produce.”

    Those flavors and colors will help enhance another trend Cargill has identified: foodie photography. “Food-centric photo sharing is on the rise in social media, as reported by a 2015 Mintel study. This growing trend has increased the importance of visually appealing meals with bold colors and artful plating,” Martin says. “Inspiring point-of-sale materials help sell ready-to-grill meats, and free grilling recipes enable shoppers to prepare fabulous, Instagram-worthy dishes at home.”

    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ
    • About Jim Dudlicek As editor-in-chief of Progressive Grocer, Jim Dudlicek oversees daily operations of the magazine, spearheads its signature features, produces PG’s monthly Trend Alert newsletter on center store issues, moderates its regular webcast series, and writes and comments about a wide range of grocery issues. A food industry journalist since 2002, Jim came to PG in June 2010 after covering the dairy industry for 7½ years, during which time he served as chief editor of Dairy Field and Dairy Foods magazines. A graduate of Marquette University, Jim is fascinated by how truly progressive grocers inspire consumers to enjoy food, transforming the industry from mere merchants into educators that can take the most basic of all necessities and turn it into something profound and life-enhancing.

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