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Cinde W. Ingram

HPBExpo sports color, innovations

Retail dealers sampled new flavors of grilled foods and huddled around infrared patio heaters, outdoor fireplaces and fire pits as the latest barbecue and hearth products were tested at the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Expo in Atlanta.

The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association announced record-breaking grill shipments of more than 17.4 million in 2007 as North America’s biggest indoor-outdoor trade show kicked off Feb. 28.

“Offering grills and accessories for every budget, every occasion and every personality and style, manufacturers recognize the need for convenient, easy to use yet sophisticated state-of-the-art products,” said Leslie Wheeler, HPBA director of communications. “With the highest shipment numbers in more than 20 years and the majority of consumers grilling year-round, the industry continues to live up to the challenge of producing products that will further enhance the grilling experience.”

Crowds gathered as celebrity chefs John Henry Abercrombie and Ted Reader offered samples of grilled fare, prepared with innovative and unusual sauces. Reader asked whether his audience knew how to encourage finicky children to eat fish as he prepared a peanut butter and jelly glaze. Spicy sauces being introduced by Abercrombie heated the palettes of taste-testers at a nearby booth in the Outdoor Burn Area. Other grill manufacturers also served samples and demonstrated products.

Travis Industries’ House of Fire was busy as dealers were drawn like moths to the swirling Tempest torch, which Travis President Kurt Rumens said is just being released in the marketplace following its award-winning 2007 introduction. “There’s a kind of magic look to its fire,” he said. “It’s all about sizzle.” Electronic candle systems and looks of bamboo, driftwood and birch paired with electric or gas flames also were introduced to provide ambiance and replace firelogs. “All of our fireplaces can be used outdoors in covered areas,” Rumens said. “We worked hard to make lots of styles that go with different architecture used across the country.”

Indoor attractions

Inside Georgia Congress Center, Cool Heat introduced a bar height tile-top table with mister and planter built in to irrigate a grapevine or other climbing plant while providing shade to those seated around the table. “We’re getting tremendous reception; nobody had thought of creating a natural shade canopy,” International Sales Director Dan Wood said. “We call this a green product for a green lifestyle.”

More conventional casual seating choices were available from Telescope Casual and Summer Classics, two long-time exhibitors at the show. Telescope furniture and Sunbrella fabrics, combined with customizable outdoor cabinets by In and Out Cabinetry, outdoor rugs by Sawgrass Mills and Outdoor Leisure’s patio heaters, were showcased inside the Outdoor Living display, designed by Mark Abrams and presented by Casual Living in a 20 x 40-foot space near the show’s entranceway. Tervis Tumbler supplied tabletop props while Imax added accessories and Trees International completed the environment.

The show started strong at The HammockSource booth, with dealers placing orders for outdoor rugs, bar height tables and rope barstools. More products were added to its Hatteras Outdoors collection, which combines the Brazilian hardwood cumaru with DuraCord ropes, and retailers can expect to see more before the end of 2008, according to Reid Roney, vice president of sales and marketing, and Jule Budacz, national sales manager. “It started with rockers and, when we added tables and barstools, it’s really taken off,” Budacz said.

Showing for the first time, Tortuga Outdoor introduced its synthetic wicker collections of deep seating, dining and chat set pieces. David Seitz said his strategy for the new Canton, Ga.-based company was to find the right dealers. “I like this show, it’s not too big and people have time to stop and talk,” Seitz said.

Dimplex’s indoor booth was packed as soon as doors opened on the first day of the show. Its electric grill program – Power Chef – drew attention for its searing capability and size, small enough for townhouses and condos. Additional introductions centered around a landscaping concept, said Kristine Rose, vice president of the company’s Symphony division. Those included an electric outdoor fireplace complete with planter system; Spectra, an outdoor electric stove with a citronella burner tucked inside to keep bugs at bay, as well as a fountain/heater combination unit. Though not for outdoor use, another debut worthy of note was the Convex Wall Mount electric fireplace. Like wall art, the fireplace is hung against a wall and can utilize either rocks or sand to create a more natural and modern piece for the home.

First-time exhibitor Fuego created a buzz with its stylish, contemporary line of grills, such as the Fuego Modular, a unit that is entirely customizable. It offers a “freestanding fine furniture approach to outdoor entertaining,” Fuego Chief Designer Robert Brunner said. Beginning with an aluminum frame, the grill can accommodate up to six modules with grills, burners, warming drawers and storage, and can be freestanding in the back yard or mounted to the house as a built-in unit.

“The Fuego Modular allows for the ultimate freedom of expression,” Fuego CEO Alex Siow said. “We’ve taken the traditional outdoor kitchen and liberated it with stunning choices in both function and design.”

Other first-time exhibitors at the show included German Grill, a charcoal grill with a built-in lighting system, adjustable heating levels and designed to allow easy clean-up. Disc-It, an Albuquerque, N.M.-based grill maker was first inspired by plow discs but now offers customizable artistic designs ranging from geckos and palm trees to military and team logos.

Wittus’ modern grills also drew attention. Its Phoenix and Firebird grills, designed by Danish architectural designer Brent Falk, double as outdoor fireplaces.

Being green

The green trend continued to be a topic of conversation on the show floor. New company Visual Home exhibited its line of grill covers made of reusable polypropylene fabric. One hundred percent recyclable, the covers featured an aluminum lining as well.

TEC debuted The Next Generation Grill which cooks with 100% infrared energy. If the taste of fresh vegetables cooked on this grill in TEC’s outdoor booth was any indication, The Next Generation Grill certainly will be hit on the retail floor. While its old ceramic infrared technology was a great improvement over conventional grilling, TEC’s new patented grilling system is said to reduce moisture loss and shrinkage in food, provide uniform heat distribution across the grilling surface and employ radiant glass panels that vaporize all food drippings and marinades, maximizing the outdoor charbroil flavor. At its indoor booth, TEC’s G-Sport grill introduced new concepts with its first permanent portable grill design and two new patent-pending technologies.

First-time exhibitor Grill KoZey debuted an insulation piece designed to fit over most gas grill covers. Ideal for regions that experience seasonal temperatures, KoZeys enable grills to retain heat, therefore reducing grilling time and cutting combustion emissions. “The idea is to extend the grilling season into winter,” said Manager Mark Wade.

Cal Flame introduced the Grand Canyon, a wood-burning outdoor fireplace that reduces emissions by 25% using a catalytic converter. When the wood burns, it releases a byproduct in the form of smoke, which drifts up the chimney. A fan then forces the smoke through the converter before being expelled in the air.

Hearth & Home Technologies offers a full range of products that promote both energy efficiency and air quality through the use of clean burning gas, electric and EPA-approved wood burning fireplaces and stoves across all of its divisions.

“It’s gratifying to be an active participant in the sustainable movement by promoting clean technologies like direct vent and refusing to make or sell hearth systems that continue to cause unhealthy indoor and outdoor air quality or create excess moisture,” said Tim Rethlake, vice president, new construction sales growth.

Another first-time exhibitor, Nature’s Grilling Products, offered retailers a 100% natural line of charcoal and grilling woods. Produced without chemicals or additives, renewable resources from Paraguay and Mexico are used to make the products.

Fire Brand brought its 100% natural coconut charcoal to market. A gourmet charcoal for smoking or slow grilling, it is made from 100% recycled coconut shells and the bypass product of copra, or coconut meat.

Among the many accessories striving for green status was Grill Grate cleaning brushes from Grill Daddy. The brushes have a hollow handle to fill with water which can be released as needed to steam clean the cooking grate while hot, eliminating any need for harsh chemical cleaners.

Industry innovations

Innovative products included the Vision VU Art Screen, a company that stopped passersby with its demonstration of its TV-to-artwork display. Vision Vu transforms flat screen televisions mounted above a fireplace or anywhere on a wall into a piece of art, chosen by the buyer. The customer can select a piece of art and a frame, install the Art Screen and use a remote control to cover and hide the television when not in use with the artwork.

Sunbrite TV added two new all-weather LCD televisions to its line-up. Featuring a corrosion-resistant powder-coated aluminum exterior, the TVs also feature optional ceiling, wall and deck/planter mounts, allowing the user to place the TV anywhere they desire in an outdoor living area.

“(The TVs) are a great fit for hearth, barbecue and patio stores who want to expand their businesses to include outdoor TV and video entertainment,” said Lynn Stearn, SunBrite TV’s vice president of sales.

Blue Rhino’s Endless Summer Electric patio heaters, which double as lamps, were among the functional yet stylized new products gaining interest. The heaters are easy to operate by plugging into a standard electrical outlet and flipping the on/off switch.

Retailers gathered beneath the telescopic infrared heaters being introduced by Well Traveled Living. The heaters run on regular household current and are available for freestanding or wall mounted uses in stainless steel or powder-coated finishes. Hamp Tanner, president, said the heaters are odorless, silent, have no emissions and can be used indoors or out.

New technologies for infrared cooking continue to be introduced. Char-Broil offered two all infrared stainless grill models with ample cooking space at affordable prices, but its Big Easy oil-less turkey fryer cooks with infrared surround heat was especially intriguing. It produces the burnished, golden skin and moist interior of a fried turkey without the expense and inconvenience of oil.

Trend note: Size and color matter

The trend of either super-sized grills, grill islands and outdoor kitchens or smaller, portable grills continued as many new introductions fit in one category or the other. Dansons’ Little Guy portable gas grill marketed itself as perfect for camping and tailgating. Crafted of stainless steel, the grill features 283 square inches of cooking area and a fold-away leg system along with the ability to reach up to a 600-degree cooking temperature.

Weber-Stephen Products launched a charcoal version of its popular portable Q grill. The company also added new colors – black and copper – to its grill line-up that were so well received last year. Masterbuilt also debuted colors for its electric turkey fryer, now available in red, white, pewter and copper.

It was evident color will be more prominent in grills in coming seasons as products from the bright orange of the Iroda 24-pound portable to Napoleon’s Bronze Mist porcelain enamel contour doors and matching roll-top lids on the Prestige II models. Minden offered bright colors ranging from royal blue and red to forest green. While stainless will not disappear anytime soon, the industry seems to have gotten the message that consumers want other choices.

The show floor seemed awash in blue lighting wherever grills appeared. After introducing lights inside the lids, in handles, as clamp-ons, freestanding lamps and even in accessories such as lighted spatulas and tongs, virtually every gas grill manufacturer this year had lighted control knobs, usually blue. The lighting is all intended to make it easier to barbecue at night, even if the grill isn’t located in a well-lighted space.

Built-ins continue to be the rage. Lynx Professional Grills CEO Bret Hadley said they account for two-thirds of the company’s business. While its 36-inch grill continues to be a best-seller, Hadley said the company has tripled its size over the last five years, a lot of it due in part to add-on items like this year’s new built-in patio heaters or other accessories like a paper towel holder, cutting board, trash compact system and more.

KitchenAid added built-in options to its outdoor collection, including new grill canopy hoods, an 18-inch ice maker, slow cook warming drawers, pull-out tank access on freestanding grills and built-in trash and utility drawers for cooking islands.

“The line between indoor and outdoor living spaces is becoming more and more blurred,” said Debbie O’Connor, senior manager of Brand Experience for KitchenAid. “Our goal in developing this collection was, quite simply, to help minimize trips back to the kitchen and maximize the enjoyment of outdoor gatherings.”

Outdoor Kitchen World introduced the Duet, an adjustable outdoor cooking and beverage island that can fit built-in grills and cocktail stations from 21 to 48 inches wide.

Entrance to HPBExpo at Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta. Entrance to HPBExpo at Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta.
Telescope Casual Furniture was featured with Outdoor Leisure patio heater, Sawgrass Mills’ outdoor rugs and other products in the outdoor living area Casual Living presented to demonstrate to retailers how products can be displayed well in a limited space. Telescope Casual Furniture was featured with Outdoor Leisure patio heater, Sawgrass Mills’ outdoor rugs and other products in the outdoor living area Casual Living presented to demonstrate to retailers how products can be displayed well in a limited space.
Celebrity chef Ted Reader entertains retailers at the Napoleon Gourmet Grills booth. Celebrity chef Ted Reader entertains retailers at the Napoleon Gourmet Grills booth.
John Henry Abercrombie passes a spicy bite of salmon, seasoned with one of his sauces that debuted at HPBExpo. John Henry Abercrombie passes a spicy bite of salmon, seasoned with one of his sauces that debuted at HPBExpo.

View of the Weber display.
View of the Weber display.                                                        
Travis President Kurt Rumens discusses his innovative fireplace options and eye-catching Tempest torch. Travis President Kurt Rumens discusses his innovative fireplace options and eye-catching Tempest torch.
Helena Bennet, outdoor patio buyer for Home Depot’s 34 Expo design stores, with Brad Hadley, CEO of Lynx Professional Grills, and Marty Friedman, president of Eastern Marketing Corp., a distributor of luxury appliances. Helena Bennet, outdoor patio buyer for Home Depot’s 34 Expo design stores, with Brad Hadley, CEO of Lynx Professional Grills, and Marty Friedman, president of Eastern Marketing Corp., a distributor of luxury appliances.
Jule Badacz presents The HammockSource’s space-saving display rack. Jule Badacz presents The HammockSource’s space-saving display rack.
Fuego captured attention with its contemporary line of grills, such as its modular unit shown here. Fuego captured attention with its contemporary line of grills, such as its modular unit shown here.
Well Traveled Living’s infrared patio heater drew attention.
Well Traveled Living’s infrared patio heater drew attention.
First-time exhibitor Grill KoZey debuted an insulation piece designed to fit over most gas grill covers. The KoZey reduces grilling time and cuts combustion emissions. First-time exhibitor Grill KoZey debuted an insulation piece designed to fit over most gas grill covers. The KoZey reduces grilling time and cuts combustion emissions.
KitchenAid added built-in options to its outdoor collection to help minimize homeowners’ trips back to the kitchen. KitchenAid added built-in options to its outdoor collection to help minimize homeowners’ trips back to the kitchen.
  Blue Rhino debuted lamp styled electric patio heaters, including tabletop and floor standing models like this one, called New Orleans.   Blue Rhino debuted lamp styled electric patio heaters, including tabletop and floor standing models like this one, called New Orleans.

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