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Innovative, eco-conscious products heat up HPBExpo

New Product Pavilion showcases trends

The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Expo brought the latest grill, patio furniture, accessories and hearth innovations to Reno, Nev., last week.

Most of the vendors asked described the March 19-21 show as good while extreme descriptions ranged from fantastic to steady to slow. A number of exhibitors were new to the show while many returning vendors used it as an opportunity to make product extensions.

The New Product Pavilion was busy early in the show and educational seminars were full, although overall attendance appeared less than last year’s HPBExpo in Atlanta and two years ago when the show was last in Reno. Display booths were generally smaller and many vendors displayed either indoors or out, when they previously have taken booths in both spots.

With the NCAA basketball tournament playing on two screens inside its booth, Team Grill appealed to the interests of sports fans with high-end gas grills customized to match the popular logos and colors of 18 universities. The first teams included the national champion Florida Gators, Oklahoma Sooners, UNC Tar Heels, Michigan Wolverines and Georgia Bulldogs. Additional schools, franchises and brands are expected to be added to the licensing agreement over time.

“College sports fans are the most passionate and dedicated when it comes to their teams,” said John Upham, executive vice president. “With the introduction of the Team Grill line of patio and tailgating grills, students, alumni and fans everywhere can always show their support, while hosting a backyard barbecue or tailgating before the big game.”  

The Bubba Keg Convection Grill also played on the passions of sports fans and tailgaters as it made its debut with mini-basketballs arcing toward a trailer parked inside the booth. “This show’s been great,” said Bubba Keg brand manager Drew Keenan. “We’ve had such a positive reaction.”

From innovative and affordable grills and smokers to state-of-the-art outdoor kitchens, the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association announced the industry’s latest trends and hottest products. Shipping more than 16.7 million grills and smokers in 2008, the industry reached a new height as 77% – three out of four households – own an outdoor grill or smoker.

“Consumers continue to crave the delicious food, convenience and relaxed atmosphere that comes with outdoor cooking,” said Leslie Wheeler, HPBA communications director. “Grill and smoker manufacturers are meeting consumer demand with products that are easy to use, while bringing restaurant-quality taste to consumers’ backyards.”      

Outdoor kitchens are transforming backyards into modern utopias with all the comforts of an indoor kitchen. More digital controls appeared in grill islands from well-known manufacturers.  

Adding to the range of high-end grills and grilling tools, The Fulham Group debuted a licensed Cuisinart collection with a gourmet grill, grilling tools and cookware. “Our goal is to elevate the grilling experience from a consumer standpoint,” Rob Ashworth said. “We want to transfer the brand so consumers can take the creativity they have in the kitchen and use it when cooking outdoors.”  
Telescope Casual Furniture gained attention from existing dealers who were excited to see new colors, table size and chair variations. Telescope added a 49-inch back height and new pitch with ergonomic curves to its Momentum sling chair. A third color, mahogany, was added to its Windward Collection, which is made from 30% recycled or recyclable resin. Telescope also added an arm option to its armless chaise and a 10th frame finish in a light brown shade, called desert.  

As consumers look for ways to save money and make their home a restful retreat, fireplace and stove manufacturers are producing innovative and stylish products that meet the need for efficient, clean heat.

“Today’s manufacturers are designing fireplaces, stoves and other heating products with efficiency and environmental impact in mind,” said Jack Goldman, HPBA president. “There are more options than ever to supply homes with warmth and ambiance that not only help cut heating costs, but provide consumers with renewable fuel options.”

On display at HPBExpo were numerous products that are covered under the federal government’s recently-passed stimulus package. The stimulus bill makes many stoves more affordable by providing consumers with a 30% tax credit (up to $1,500) through 2010 for the addition of a 75% efficient biomass-burning stove.

2009 Technology and Product Trends
Eco-friendly, efficient and easy-to-use are the key trends for this year’s hottest stoves and fireplaces.
* Cleaner and Greener: From high-grade, cast-iron stoves forged with recycled material to wood burning fireplaces that release fewer emissions, manufacturers are exploring new technologies and fuels to reduce the environmental impact of hearth products while increasing product efficiency. From heating an entire house to only the rooms that are used most, fireplaces, stoves, inserts and outdoor wood hydronic heaters are being designed to meet and exceed strict government emissions standards. 

* In the Zone: Heating rooms that a family occupies the most, or zone heating, makes today’s stoves and fireplaces allow a home’s central heat to be turned down. Fans, circulators and blowers enhance that efficiency, helping to save even more money. 

* All-in-One: Home is where the hearth is. As the center of relaxation and entertainment, new fireplaces can include entertainment features like iPod docks, wire management channels and built-in media cabinets to form an instant sanctuary. 

* Art of Fire: The beauty of a flame is amplified by manufacturers who have designed fireplace masterpieces that can be hung on walls, can feature rich veneers, sculptures and glass, and sometimes even touched off with LED lighting. 

* Convenience is King: Manufacturers continue to develop the latest in remote controls, timers, and hopper technology. Modern hearth products offer flip-of-the-switch heat and ambiance, self-cleaning capabilities, and can allow for multiple days of operation with little hassle or interaction. 

* Mainstream Alternatives: Wood, corn and cherry pits are just a few of the biomass fuel options that continue to gain in popularity. 

* Maximized Living Space: From classic fire pits to portable heaters and stoves, outdoor heating sources extend seasons and increase entertainment square footage. New multipurpose products can serve as an outdoor fireplace, a wood-fire grill or even a garden sculpture and bring new utility to outdoor spaces.
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