After an uptick in spending across the grilling segment during the first half of 2021, the already extended grilling season has continued through the end of the year. The industry’s revenue grew 14 percent last year, reaching $6.1 billion in sales in 2021, according to Retail Tracking Service data from the NPD Group. The extension of the grilling season was evident in a surge in sales for grill options that enable consumers to cook while under weather constraints, as well as the complementary purchases, like accessories and fuel, that took place later in the year.
“A pastime for some and a passion for others, grilling has grown in response to the limitations brought about by the pandemic,” said Joe Derochowski, home industry advisor at NPD. “Elevated pandemic-driven concerns, combined with prior consumer adoption of innovative grilling options and exploration of new outdoor cooking skills, have taken the grill market to new heights.”
Nearly every type of grill enjoyed sales growth in 2021, but pellet grills stood out, with more than 1 million units sold in 2021 and 38 percent revenue growth over the previous year. The pellet grill market started the year with strong growth that accelerated in the second half of the year. Pellet grills accounted for 18 percent of the year’s revenue for the grills and smokers segment, second only to gas grills, which fell to 39 percent from 44 percent. In addition to pellet grills, the portable grills, gas griddles and outdoor cooking segments each captured additional market share last year, supporting the category’s growth with more than 6 million combined units sold.
Sales of grill accessories and fuel to support new kinds of grilling activity have heated up as well. Nearly 13 million grill accessories were sold in the second half of the year alone — a 4 percent increase over the second half of 2020 — contributing to the revenue growth over the entire year. Sales revenue from grilling fuels grew 4 percent annually; However, that growth intensified as the year progressed, with the fourth quarter gaining 6 percent in units and 9 percent in revenue. Charcoal, propane and wood pellets were the top grill fuel types in 2021, but pellets contributed the most growth to the fuels segment, with a 17 percent increase in annual revenue.
The most recent NPD Kitchen Audit Study found that 69 percent of US households owned an outdoor grill in the early months of the pandemic. Since July 2020, more than 21 million grills and smokers have been purchased by US consumers. National Eating Trends data from NPD shows that the seasonal distribution of outdoor grilling occasions became more evenly spread out in 2021. Summer continues to be the period when most outdoor grilling takes place, but the early winter months of 2021 had a slight bump in activity.
“Convenient and time-efficient grill options are fulfilling both new and lingering consumer needs, both at home and away,” added Derochowski. “The grilling industry can keep growing, if it continues to communicate a broad range of consumer benefits, provide options for consumers to maximize their recent grill investments and amplify the current excitement around grilling.”