Grilling and Chilling During Memorial Day Weekend

Grilling and Chilling During Memorial Day Weekend

On Monday, May 29, Americans will celebrate Memorial Day. As families and friends gather together, grills will be fired up for barbequing and beverages chilled to the perfect temperature. From beef, shrimp or vegetables on the grill to beer, wine or spirits in cups, there is something on the Memorial Day menu for everyone.

As the unofficial start to grilling season heats up around Memorial Day, U.S. consumers fill their shopping carts with meat and seafood to satisfy the appetites of their friends and family. In the meat category, beef reigns supreme with sales topping more than $778 million in the two weeks ended June 4, 2016, followed by chicken with sales of more than $362 million in the same time period. Seafood lovers also pick up their favorite items, with shrimp alone generating sales of more than $75 million during the same period last year.

With beef seeing such high sales around the weekend, it’s not surprising that some favorite hamburger toppings—tomatoes, lettuce and avocado—also top consumers shopping lists during the same period. However, vegetarians and vegans are not being left out. Americans purchase plenty of fruits and vegetables to add to grills (and salads) in the weeks leading up to and including the holiday weekend. From the produce department, fresh fruits top the list of purchases, with berry sales reaching almost $225 million in the two weeks alone last year.

But while consumers spend considerable time in the store picking these perfect items for the family BBQ, they’re also seeking items to help them save on prep time. Both value-added fruit and vegetables (e.g., pre-cut, pre-seasoned, side dishes and food trays) are in the top five produce items consumers purchase around the busy holiday weekend, offering convenience without compromising on quality.

With all these food choices on the table, adults (aged 21+) will need something cold to wash down their delicious meals. Across the U.S., Memorial Day is the second most important beer holiday in terms of dollar sales, second only to Fourth of July celebrations, the fourth most important holiday for spirits and the seventh most important for wines.

In the two weeks around Memorial Day last year, 16% more beer (excluding flavored malt beverages [FMBs] and Cider) was sold than an average two weeks in 2016. This spike in sales was driven by the Above Premium (Craft, Imports, Domestic Super Premium) subcategory, which sold 20% more than average. However, it’s not just your average beer that sees sales rise over the holiday; seasonal style beverages across beer, FMBs and cider sold 28% more than an average two weeks. Hard Soda sold 36% more through Memorial Day, which contributed to FMBs/Coolers selling 31% more than average. Canned wine sales are surging, and these easy-to-hold beverages saw sales increase by 46% in the two weeks surrounding Memorial Day compared to the average two week sales in 2016.

While Americans relax and enjoy the company of family and friends, they likely have some music playing in the background. Last year during the week of Memorial Day, Americans streamed their favorite tunes on-demand to enhance the fun. The artist who owned the weekend last year? Drake. Three of the week’s top songs were his hits “One Dance,” “Controlla” and “Too Good;” Desiigner’s “Panda” and Rihanna’s “Needed Me” were also top streams during the holiday week.  

While Memorial Day marks the unofficial start to summer, it’s an important time for retailers, food and beverage manufacturers and music streaming services to tap into consumers’ preferences for grilling and chilling.


Insights in this article were derived from:

  • Nielsen Measured Off-Premise Outlets (xAOC + Liq Plus + Conv + Military), two weeks ending June 4, 2016
  • Nielsen FreshFacts, two weeks ending June 4, 2016
  • Nielsen Music Connect, week ending June 2, 2016