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05/17/2013

For the long weekend: barbecue trends

Burgers still rule the grill, but special cuts and even brisket are catching on

There are two seasons in Canada: winter and barbecue. As the weather finally warms up for the long weekend, home cooks are ready to take their meals from the dining room to the deck.

One in five Canadians grill more now than a year ago, according to the annual Weber Canadian Grill Watch survey, with 62 per cent firing up the grill at least once a week.

No wonder barbecue season is now such an important time for grocers. To prepare, let’s look at some of the trends in barbecuing.

As one might expect, hamburgers are the most popular item to barbecue, followed by hot dogs, chicken and steak, according to the Weber Canadian Grill Watch survey.

But other cuts are catching on. Source grinds, for instance, are becoming more popular, says Joyce Parslow, culinary marketing manager at Canada Beef, which represents the Canadian beef and cattle industry.

Items like ground sirloin have emerged from foodservice, with more fast-food chains and restaurants serving up premium burgers like black Angus.

“People are looking to have a ground beef that has an identity around it,” says Parslow. “To think that it’s cut from a single steak commands more value back .”

In steaks, Parslow predicts that tri-tip, skirt and flank steaks will be big this year. And with these cuts, “there’s a gravitation toward doing a large steak and then slicing it and passing it around to the whole family.”

Brisket also appears to have some growth potential as people become interested in smokers, says Parslow.

While only five per cent of Canadians own smokers, 30 per cent in the Weber survey said they are intrigued by this cooking method. “It’s more in the hobby category, but maybe that will grow this year,” says Parslow.

How can grocers become the destination choice for backyard barbecuers? Start by putting meat on page one of flyers.

A survey of consumers last year by the Alberta Livestock and Meat Association found seven in 10 plan their store choice around flyers, with 78% saying meat specials directly impact where they shop.

In addition to price, consumers choose to buy meat from stores they think have the best selection, variety and freshness.

Interestingly, the ALMA study found Canadians rate Costco especially high for meat shopping.

Also, the number of stores people shop at regularly for meat is fewer than the number they shop at on a regular basis for groceries–two stores for meat, three to four stores for all groceries.

That shows Canadians are choosy about which supermarkets they think have the best meat departments.