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Surging BBQ companies go public, signaling continued post-pandemic shift to home cooking

Consumers have already indicated that they intend to eat out less.

Updated: July 24, 2021 - 10:39pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

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Multiple home barbecue companies are going public after a successful year and a half amid the COVID-19 crisis, an apparent reflection of increasing consumer orientation toward home cooking after many months during which dining out was sharply curtailed.

Traeger — a manufacturer of automated wood-pellet smokers — this week announced an initial public offering of 23,529,411 shares of common stock at as much as $18 per share. The company was expecting to realize around $400 million in the IPO. 

The company in its IPO prospectus said it "more than doubled revenue from $262.1 million in 2017 to $545.8 million in 2020," with huge surges in social media followings last year 

Weber — the longtime manufacturer of a diverse line of grills, including the classic black kettle grill that has been a mainstay of charcoal barbecues in the U.S. for decades — is also planning a public offering, claiming in its own prospectus that it recorded year-over-year growth in 2021 that in some cases soared through triple digits. 

The growing interest in home barbecuing was also experienced by smaller, more regional companies. Corey DiGiovanni and Jeff Thalrose, the proprietors of the New York State-based barbecue company MeatBoneZ, said they "watched the popularity for grilling grow immensely over the last year," driven in large part by the large-scale lockdowns that gripped the country last year and sent many people to the Internet looking for new food ideas to pass the time.

"We definitely think it will continue to be popular with more and more people realizing that there's more to barbecue than what they were brought up on at birthday parties and graduations," the duo told Just the News via email. They noted that their own brand grew markedly over the past year and a half, and that the wide availability of "rubs, sauces, free instructional vids, affordable grill prices, and gadgets" are helping to keep interest elevated.

Increasing consumer orientation toward more home-based activities, in particular home cooking, has been observed since the earliest days of the COVID crisis. At the outset of the pandemic, Americans took to baking and cooking as a means to relieve boredom and stress throughout the first wave of restrictive lockdowns. 

By roughly the same time this year, consumers were indicating their continued intent to cook more meals at home, a worrying sign for restaurants but a welcome development for manufacturers of home cooking equipment, such as Weber and Traeger. 

A March report from the International Casual Furnishings Association showed that nearly half of all Americans intended to grill outside more during the year, while more than a third had plans to purchase a grill at some point in 2021.

Grilling could remain at elevated popularity in particular if work-from-home arrangements become more normalized and cooking on the backyard patio becomes more manageable from a home office. 

The surge in grill purchases was also reflected in a recent statement by the online grilling retailer BBQGuys, where the company announced "a definitive business combination agreement that will result in BBQGuys becoming a publicly listed company on NASDAQ."

In making the announcement the company said that its pro forma equity was valued at nearly $1 billion. 

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