Eight out of every ten adults grilled last year according to a new study by leading marketing information provider The NPD Group, Inc. People are grilling more all year round, making barbecue grills one of the most popular heating appliances in the American home and creating new opportunities for marketers, reveals NPD’s latest Grilling In America report, a survey of 12,800 nationally representative households.

As consumers look for ways to simplify food preparation, more people are relying on their grills for fast, convenient family dinner meals. Seventy percent of grilled dinner meals take thirty minutes or less to prepare, compared to half of dinner meals overall. In keeping with the changing needs of meal preparers, 31% of adults agree that grilling involves less cleanup, takes less time, and allows them to capitalize on convenience and health-consciousness without sacrificing taste, the number one reason that consumers grill.

“Americans turn to the grill for a few reasons,” states Arnie Schwartz, NPD’s vice president of National Eating Trends®. “While it adds taste varieties to the meal routine, it also makes life a little easier. There aren’t any pots and pans to clean up; the meals tend to be simpler; and if mom is clever, she can recruit dad to actually do the grilling since the numbers show that men cook on the grill more frequently than women.”

This combination of taste and convenience is prompting Americans to fire up their grills throughout the week. Although grill usage skews more toward the weekend, especially Sunday, which accounts for 23% of all grilling, 60% of grilling takes place on weekdays. Nine out of every ten grilled meals are prepared for family members only.

Summer months are peak season for barbecuing, but winter, spring, and fall are also popular. Surprisingly, growth is occurring in all regions during the winter season, with one out of every five households grilling during the colder months. Gas grill users tend to grill more year-round than charcoal grill users.

While virtually all household segments have seen growth in grill usage over time, NPD found that higher household income translates into higher grill usage. Of all the household segments polled, working parents have increased their use of the grill most dramatically over the past decade to become the largest sector of the population who grills.

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Throughout the 1990s, the gas grill has advanced as the most popular type of grill. More households (over one-half) own gas grills than any other type of grill; 30% own charcoal grills and 14% own indoor grills.

The most popular six items for grilling account for two-thirds of all foods prepared on the grill. Steak, chicken and burgers, the top three, account for 47%. One of the fastest growing foods grilled is potatoes, which doubled in popularity since 1996 (1996-3%, 1999 – 6%).


Steak 19%
Chicken 15%
Burgers 13%
Hot Dogs 8%
Pork Chops 6%
Potatoes 6%

As Americans grow more accustomed to preparing their entrees on the grill, NPD predicts side dishes may provide marketers’ the next big opportunity. Despite potatoes’ grilling popularity, only 7% of dinner meals include a grilled side dish.

“There’s an untapped opportunity to offer side dish products or packages that can be cooked on the grill, right next to the steak or chicken,” says Arnie Schwartz. “Manufacturers who want to take advantage of this market should work towards creating good tasting products that leave nothing to clean up afterwards.”

About the Study

The Grilling In America study is a combined study of more than 12,800 households surveyed from 1990 through 1999 by National Eating Trends®, The NPD Kitchen Audit, CREST®, and NPD Online(sm). The sample is demographically and geographically balanced to U.S. Census Bureau statistics. Results are balanced to reflect total behavior across the US.

About The NPD Group, Inc.

The NPD Group is an international marketing information company headquartered in Port Washington, NY. Founded in 1953, the firm specializes in providing insight into consumer purchasing and behavior via both Internet-based and traditional research methodologies, including online and offline consumer panels and point-of-sale tracking.

NPD offers proprietary databases and research expertise in more than 20 industries, including apparel, automotive products, consumer electronics, cosmetics and fragrances, financial services, food, foodservice, footwear, housewares, information technology, interactive entertainment, new media, pharmaceuticals, toys, and more. The firm also offers a full range of analytical tools for ad hoc research. NPD is the developer of the revolutionary Web audience measurement technology now marketed by its successful spin-off Media Metrix, Inc. NPD has offices and affiliations in 36 countries, covering North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. For more information on The NPD Group, visit www.npd.com.