Top Trends to Spice Up Summer Grilling Sales

summer grilling

One in five consumers plan on grilling more this summer according to new shopper survey insights from Acosta Group. This includes half of Gen Z and a quarter of millennials and Gen X.

Warmer weather (48%) was the top reason for this increase. Other leading responses include trying new foods (42%), entertaining guests (36%), and eating healthier (35%).

Only 10% of respondents said they would be grilling less, largely citing financial challenges and the increased cost of meat.

“Gen Z and millennials are not only planning on grilling more this summer than older

generations, but they are grilling in different ways – experimenting more with non-traditional proteins and a wider variety of marinades,” said Kathy Risch, SVP of Shopper Insights & Thought Leadership at Acosta Group.

Popular Proteins for the Grill

After hamburgers, staples like chicken (83%) and hot dogs, sausage, or bratwurst (82%) topped the list of most frequently grilled items.

However, 84% of respondents said they were open to trying new foods on the grill. Gen Z and millennials are rewriting this playbook by embracing experimentation.

“Millennials…are grilling all kinds of different meats and proteins,” Risch told FI. “They are experimenting with grilling pork, fish, [and] shellfish…at a higher level than others. For example, half of millennials typically grill fish (versus just 1/3 overall).”

When it comes grilling fish, salmon is the most popular option (80%) followed by tuna (33%) and halibut (29%).

Millennials are also embracing plant-based alternatives on the grill, which signals a prime opportunity for brands to engage and target this audience through digital and retail media.

“According to our study, 15% of consumers typically grill meat alternatives (like plant-based meat, vegetarian hot dogs, etc.), and an even higher 28% of millennials are doing so,” said Risch.

Seasoning and Sauce Preferences

Almost all grillers use seasonings or sauces, with younger generations and households with children experiment with a wider variety of them.

BBQ sauce (68%) was the leading preference, followed by salt and pepper (58%), marinades (57%), and dry rubs (55%). Gen Z is using more steak sauce and mustard this year, while millennials are splashing more hot sauce, ketchup, and mayonnaise over their grills.

“Additionally, both Gen Z and millennials are more likely to want their grilling sauces and seasoning spicy or extra spicy,” said Risch.

 Completing the Plate with Produce

Half of grillers incorporate produce into their meals and vegetables have a significant presence. After corn (68%), popular veggies include bell peppers (63%), zucchini (54%), and mushrooms (52%).

The trend of grilling fruits is also on the rise. Fruit brands can capitalize on this by highlighting recipes while retailers can merchandise grilling staples alongside fresh produce.

“While only 10% of consumers typically grill fruit, millennials grill fruit at twice that level – 20%,” said Risch. “The most common fruit grilled is pineapple, but some are trying other fruits like peaches, watermelon, and bananas at smaller levels.”


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