Consumers investing more in outdoor cooking

by Bryan Salvage
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PALATINE, ILL. – Although industry statistics indicate outdoor grill purchases were down in 2009 compared to the previous year, U.S. consumers are willing to spend more on grills offering quality, durability and additional features, according to the annual Weber GrillWatch Survey -- a study focusing on what, where, when and why Americans grill.

In totaling up all outdoor grills sold in 2009 — ranging from small charcoal or electric portables and stationary cart gas grills to built-ins and smokers — U.S. consumers spent an average price of $203 versus $188 the year before, which is an 8% increase.

Consumers are demanding more features on their gas grills — ownership of side burners, rotisseries, sear stations and infrared burners are on a sharp rise. Sixty-one percent now own a side burner compared to 48% the year before, and 32% own a rotisserie compared to 2008's 19%. Ownership of gas grills with an infrared burner has almost tripled in one year from 6 to 17%.

American grill owners are also using full-size grills, rather than portables, more than ever before. Eighty-nine percent use them most often compared to 81% in 2008 and 80% in 2007.

"As dedicated grillers continue to become more experienced in cooking a wider variety of foods, the barbecue is increasingly being viewed as an outdoor appliance," said Sherry Bale, public relations director for Weber Grills. "What would you pay for a quality stove or a refrigerator for your indoor kitchen? As consumers now more than ever want good value for their money, they're seeing the advantages of paying for a durable grill that will stand up to punishing weather and give them years of dependable service."

Other highlights from the 21st Annual Weber GrillWatch Survey include:

• The grilling accessory market continues to grow: 32% of American grill owners say they're using grilling accessories (e.g., pizza stones, rib racks, fish baskets, poultry roasters, veggie baskets, thermometers, etc.) more now than in the past.

• While hamburgers, hot dogs, and steak are still the top-three most popular grilled foods, American grill owners would like to be better at grilling beef roasts (22%), whole turkey (18%) and pizza (18%).

Weber-Stephen Products Co., headquartered in Palatine, Ill., is a leading global manufacturer of charcoal and gas grills, grilling accessories and other outdoor room products.

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