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  • Cinde Ingram

HPBExpo heats up the grill industry

Shipments of grills and smokers exceed 15 million in 2010

The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Expo delivered on promises of hot new products and emerging trends March 3-5 in Salt Lake City's Salt Palace Convention Center.

The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association welcomed 300 exhibitors and more than 6,000 attendees for the annual Expo, the largest indoor-outdoor living show in North America. Several vendors used the word "steady" to describe the show traffic; others said it was slow. Both groups agreed the Expo attracted fewer attendees, but serious buyers.

At the end of the Expo's second day, HPBA President & CEO Jack Goldman said there was a sense of optimism among buyers and sellers. "Most people seem to be pleased so far," he said. "The number of buyers per group is higher than past years. It didn't hurt that on the show's second day, the national news announced that the unemployment rate dropped below 9%."

American Gas Logs President Scott Michaels also noted the makeup of buying groups. "The people who are here are the ones who are making the decisions," he said.

"All the important people are here - the ones who have money and are willing to spend money," said Nathan Wheeler, Onward Manufacturing Company, business manager, western U.S. Onward was among the vendors showing diverse product offerings, including its flagship Broil King line as well as Huntington, Broil-Mate, Grillpro, Fiesta and Blue Ember grills.

The Outdoor GreatRoom and Napoleon Gourmet Grills were among the few displaying outdoor furniture in addition to grills and heating products. Showing for its 21st year at HPBExpo, Telescope Casual gained attention as the sole manufacturer supplying only outdoor furniture.

"It's a great show for us, an excellent show," said Telescope Casual President Henry Vanderminden. "We see a lot of our current customers as well as new customers who are thinking about adding furniture to their stores."

Kicking off HPBExpo, the industry association announced promising sales with shipments of grills and smokers reaching more than 15 million in 2010 - a slight increase from 2009 and positive returns from smoky economic conditions nationwide.

"From the grilling novice to the most seasoned chef, new innovative accessories and all-purpose add-ons give cooks more options to enjoy outdoor cooking throughout the year and for any occasion," HPBA Communications Director Leslie Wheeler said. "New time-saving technologies and innovative international cooking techniques offer something for everyone and make this one of the most diverse Expo experiences to date."

2011 trend watch

As the May-to-September peak outdoor cooking season approaches, consumers can expect to see grills, smokers and outdoor living products in high demand. HPBExpo unveiled the trends that will drive sales during 2011 and beyond, including:

Expandables: It's easier than ever before to expand "grill-abilities" with the latest add-on products. For example, the new Gourmet Barbecue System from Weber-Stephen Products offers six affordable, separately sold, heavy-duty add-on grill features, including a cast iron wok and griddle that gives chefs delicious new versatility. Weber consumers also can expand their grill spaces with the Summit Grill Center with Social Area. This new stainless steel L-shaped build-out comes complete with cabinets that enclose a rotisserie system, a paper towel holder and a dual-ring side burner for an affordable addition to an outdoor grilling get-up.

Generation grill: With the outdoor cooking arena constantly evolving, manufacturers continue to re-think convention. This year, Carson Rotisseries brings the technique of Brazilian slow-turn barbecue to the traditional American grill for the first time with the Brazilian BBQ. And for personalizing meals, the Poco Pizza Oven from Bull Outdoor Products features a stainless steel oven with smokestack, designed for pizza-cooking perfection. Or try The Ace of Hearts BBQ Specialties' The Pony Express Smoker and Grill, which allows real pit-barbecue flavor via a unique damper control cooking environment. From Fahrenheit Technologies, the Grilla sets itself apart with its new innovative wood pellet grill and smoker, including 16 smoke settings, NeverFlare flame disk, KeepHeat chamber door and quick change pellet drawer.

Grill-ovative accessories: New accessories are keeping outdoor cooking fresh and fun. Moistly Grilled from The Companion Group is a two-piece cast iron vessel and vented lid, an innovative gadget that adds humidity to the grilling environment. Just add water - or any other cooking liquid - to make the most succulent, flavorful grilled meat. Or for grilling made easier, Fire Wire offers the Fire Wire Entrée Skewer, a bendable skewer perfect for grilling single-portion meals and adapting to any cooking surface. A perfect accessory to any meal, Memphis Barbecue Sauces and Rubs from Hearthland Products will entice taste buds with its zesty Memphis-mix of natural, premium ingredients.

Portable and compact: Perfect for tailgates, picnics and backyard barbecues, portable grills bring the heat on-the-go. Fuego North America offers the Element Portable Gas Grill this year as part of its contemporary line of gas grills - which all include a handy roasting lid and dual zone burners. The new Cuisinart Petit Gourmet Portable Gas Grill by The Fulham Group offers a versatile table-top grill that combines portability with ample grilling space. From Empire Comfort Systems, Broilmaster's new Broilmaster H3X Deluxe Grill with stainless steel rod cooking grid is compact, a convenient entry-level stand-alone grill that fits into tight spaces.

Clean up in a cinch: Making clean-up less of a chore, Grill Pillow from Grill Pillow is a new biodegradable pillow that absorbs drip pan grease from outdoor grills, making the removal of unwanted grease easy and mess-free. The new Hydro Grill Blaster and BBQ Stone Cleaning Kit from Mr. Bar-B-Q cleans and sanitizes with the help of steam; the trigger action of the Hydro Grill Blaster allows you to control water flow, while the BBQ Stone is a soft-pumice that deep cleans your grill.

Sales re-ignite in 2010

Grill shipments remain strong with gas grills continuing to top the charts as the most popular type of grill, followed by charcoal and then electric. Many remote control ignition options were introduced to help make grilling easier.

+ Total gas grills shipments (57% of sales) - 8,553,500
+ Total charcoal grills shipments (41% of sales) - 6,232,500
+ Total electric grills shipments (2% of sales) - 276,600

Light your fire

Firepits, outdoor fireplaces, outdoor heaters and outdoor kitchen components continued to emerge from existing and new sources.

AZ Patio Heaters built on its success from last September's Casual Market. "This show has gone remarkably well for us," said Bo McMillen, vice president of sales and operations. "We're rocking and rolling and selling all day."

May is National Barbecue Month and the kick-off to the peak grilling and smoking season. Retailers see their highest sales during the warmer months, and HPBA forecasts continued growth this summer.

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