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Outdoor Grilling History & Fuel Trends

Written by John Laing

February 28, 2022

A 100-year-old fuel trend is about to change…

Over a century ago, an entrepreneur named Henry Ford was producing over a million Model T cars annually. These vehicles included wood that was used for the dashboard, steering wheel, and other parts. Ford was going through a considerable amount of wood in vehicle production, and he was frustrated by not controlling his supply destiny. He contacted his cousin’s husband, Edward Kingsford, a real estate agent in the Detroit area to help him find land with plenty of wood and suitable to build a sawmill. Such a plant was soon built in Iron Mountain, Michigan, to serve Ford’s vehicle needs.

Henry Ford was also an avid outdoorsmen and nature lover living by the motto, “reduce, reuse and recycle.” While camping in 1921*, he realized he could live up to his motto by taking the leftover branches and sawdust, compress them with tar and cornstarch and create a briquette, suitable for use in campfires and outdoor cooking. For the next three decades, these were sold as “Ford’s Briquettes.” It wasn’t until 1951 when a group of investors purchased the charcoal business from Ford and decided to rename the product “Kingsford Briquettes.”

The journey for the perfect cooking source blossomed in 1952 by George Stephen, a welder at Weber Brothers Metal Works. He invented the infamous domed Weber grill, which utilized charcoal. In the 60’s, two gentlemen from the Arkansas Louisiana Gas Co. built the first gas grill that could use propane as a fuel source. While expensive at the time, it became the most popular way to grill and remains that way today.

At the close of 2021, sales of gas grills equated to approximately 55% of overall industry dollar volume. Charcoal grills account for about 22%. What’s the hot “new” fuel type? For the first time in history, charcoal will move into 3rdplace, behind pellets grill sales, which will be over 23% of the Grill Industry, according to the latest forecasts.

What’s “fueling” (pun intended) the pellet growth? Several things:

  1. Ease of Use. Manage precise temperatures without having to babysit your food
  2. Helps the food taste better
  3. Allows the cook to express their creativity and appear to be “gourmet”
  4. Easy cleanup for the user
  5. Wi-Fi Technology. Control your temperature, time, and recipes from afar
  6. Multiple Grill Ownership. Three in 10 consumers own more than one grill type
  7. Consumers are spreading the good word about pellet grills

The younger generation is also starting a new trend that will help build future pellet sales. They’re treating their pellet grill ownership like owning a phone. After two or three years, they’ll want to go out and buy the latest innovative product.

All these facts are providing a very rosy forecast for wood pellet grilling. According to some estimates, It could grow by 50% over the next 10 years.

Are you selling Outdoor Living products? Are you participating in the hottest grill fuel category in wood pellet grills? Are you getting your fair share of “add-on” sales of: fuels, rubs, sauces, and other grilling consumables? Nationwide Marketing Group has key Vendor Partner relationships with pellet grills from Broil King, Louisiana Grills, Pit Boss and Traeger. All of them can deliver significant top line revenue, great margin, plus new and repeat customers. Now is the time to join your peers in the fun and excitement of the wood pellet grill category.

*Note: Ellsworth B. A. Zwoyer was the first to patent a design for charcoal briquettes in 1897, but it didn’t become commercially popular until Ford started his version in 1921.

 

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