From sizzling meats to seasonal sides to the growing presence of non-alcoholic beverages, grilling enthusiasts are gearing up for a season of culinary exploration and indulgence.

And this year, more and more American consumers are looking for deals on their summer grilling provisions. According to a recent survey from Advantage Solutions, a business solutions provider with unparalleled access to unique insights at the brand-retailer nexus, 75% of shoppers “always” or “often” look for meat on sale during grilling season.

“It’s important that retailers remember that consumers are looking for smoking hot deals on smoking hot meat,” says Gil Phipps, senior vice president of global customer solutions for Advantage Solutions.

That means retailers need to reach consumers on their entire path to purchase, whether that’s by sending them digital ads and notifications before they enter the store or reminding them at shelf why they visited, he says.

And it’s not just burgers and hot dogs that they’re after, data show. Shoppers are actively seeking deals on produce (46%), beverages (43%) and grilling equipment (23%), according to the survey of more than 800 American shoppers, which Advantage conducted in April 2024.

The good news for deal-seeking shoppers: Retailers and consumer packaged goods companies are leaning heavily into promotions and upping their execution on displays this year to cater to them, according to the latest Advantage Outlook, which was published earlier this week.

Many of these promotions will cater to the cravings of summer revelers during key grilling weekends and holidays, says Andy Keenan, executive vice president and general manager at Advantage Solutions.

Keenan and his team at Advantage advise retailers to prepare for a notable uptick in meat and poultry sales during summer months as consumers seek out their favorite cuts and varieties best suited for outdoor cooking.

Meat is king

Meat remains at the center of the table — and the grill.

Meat sales — and sales for certain types of meat — rise precipitously in the summer, especially around the holidays, Keenan says. Beyond steaks, burgers and hot dogs, meats such as pork shoulder steaks and brisket pop this time of year, enticing grill masters with their slow-cooking allure and potential for rich flavors. And chicken often takes center stage.

“People eat chicken all year long, but in summer they prepare it differently, and the parts they prefer change,” says Phipps. “People buy a lot more chicken thighs to go on a grill. Inside, people cook a lot more chicken breast, which is not the best for grilling. But chicken thighs off the grill are glorious.”

Sides, salads and seasonings

Grilling season is not just about meat. Side dishes play a pivotal role in the summer grilling experience.

Corn on the cob and salads — green and pasta — take up their fair share of the spotlight, with 41% and 57% of shoppers, respectively, saying they always or often prepare them when grilling.

Seasonal produce, such as watermelon, pineapple and mushrooms, often finds its way onto the grill as well, offering vibrant flavors and textures to complement grilled entrees.

As consumers embrace outdoor cooking, experimentation with flavors and seasonings becomes a hallmark of the grilling experience. Spice sales surge as home chefs craft their signature rubs and marinades, infusing meats with unique and tantalizing flavors.

Away from his day job, Phipps is something of a grill master at home. He has a particular fondness for flavors like Tajin, Togarashi, brown butter bourbon and a 4-3-2-1 marinade. “It’s four tablespoons of salt to three tablespoons brown sugar to two tablespoons paprika to a tablespoon of cayenne, all in fresh lime juice. It really brings ribs to life.”

Cold beer? Mocktail?

The rise of nonalcoholic beverages also is reshaping summer grilling culture.

While cold beers and cocktails remain staples of outdoor gatherings, an increasing number of Americans are opting for mocktails and non-alcoholic spirits, reflecting a growing preference for refreshing and health-conscious drink options.

Still, Keenan says, people will often still opt to cool down with or to pair traditional alcoholic beverages with their meals.

“There will always be a place for a cold beer on a hot summer day,” he says. “But 21% of respondents in our survey said that mocktails will always or often make an appearance when they’re hosting a barbecue.”

Advantage’s advice to retailers: Always have plenty of cold beer in stock. But don’t forget to help shoppers discover a new favorite mocktail recipe.

“With mocktails a relatively newer trend, not all consumers know a good mocktail recipe. So, for retailers, this is a great opportunity to demonstrate and sample a mocktail in-store so consumers can try it and buy those ingredients to make that drink at home,” Phipps says. “It’s a key differentiator, and another way for retailers to offer a solution for consumers that they can’t get elsewhere.”