Weber BBQ accessories will go up for sale at a hardware store in Palatinate, Illinois on July 23, 2021.

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Forget about spatulas or tongs: the most important accessory for your next grill could be your cell phone.

Some of the largest manufacturers of barbecues and outdoor cooking appliances, such as Weber and Traeger, invest heavily in technology, with an emphasis on connected devices that try to make grilling easier and more enjoyable for chefs of all skill levels.

The digital push aims to benefit from multiple trend lines hitting the grill industry at the same time.

Grilling and barbecuing at home saw a massive boom amid the pandemic, as more people stayed at home and cooked instead of eating out. More than $ 1.8 billion in sales of grills, smokers, barbecue accessories, fuel, and stoves and accessories in the United States, according to the NPD.

More grilling is causing some consumers to look beyond simple charcoal or propane grills to more advanced products like smokers, pizza ovens, and flat grills. There has also been an influx of new home grills as people tried to spend more time outdoors or moved from cities where BBQ facilities might be limited.

Companies like Weber and Traeger have subsequently sought to drive grill innovation to reach both the top and the bottom of the market.

One of Weber’s most recent technological developments was the Weber Connect Grilling Hub, which was named the best connected home product at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show. The wireless hub has temperature sensors that you plug into everything you grill on the grill and connects that data to an app on your phone that provides step-by-step instructions and notifications when the meat needs to be turned or is done .

“Think of it as a waze for your grill chef’s navigation,” Weber CEO Chris Scherzinger said earlier this month on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street”. “It’s a cloud-based technology platform with cooking algorithms based on Weber’s 70 years of grilling experience – it goes on your phone, guides your cook on your grill, controls your grill and gives you perfect results every time. It’s basically a transformed, game-changing kind of barbecue experience. “

Scherzinger also suggested other ways to incorporate technology into Weber’s grills, such as monitoring the propane tank. A new range of barbecues, slated to be unveiled later this year, will actively measure how much fuel is left, send an alert when the fuel tank is running low, and may even automatically order a refill.

“You can now have a whole new business model for Weber that is driving subscriptions, consumer engagement between barbecues and all sorts of new ways we can take this category,” he said.

The Weber Connect hub costs $ 130 and is also included in the company’s line of smart grilles, which retails for between $ 849 and $ 1,349. Weber plans to equip its charcoal grills and smokers with Connect functions in the future.

The introduction of new grilling tools will also help Weber further diversify its revenue streams. The company posted sales of $ 963.3 million for the six months ended March 31, up 62% year over year. However, sales of its grills, which range from $ 40 to over $ 1,000 and include gas, charcoal, electric, pellet, and smokers, accounted for 74% of sales in 2020.

Acquisitions fuel technology expansion

Weber’s tech push got a boost with the acquisition of smart appliance and technology company June in January 2021, after previously leading the startup’s Series C funding round and entering into product partnerships. Weber also acquired iGrill in 2016, a company that made connected thermometers.

“We believe the connected capabilities of our technology-enabled products will enable closer relationships with our consumers and usher in a new generation of enthusiasts who will join our global community of Weber loyalists,” the company wrote in its S-1 filing.

While Traeger cites the “2 million year old connection to fire” as the inspiration for the creation of his wood pellet grill, the company relies heavily on new technologies.

“Our investments in innovation around digital experiences and content are just as large, if not higher, than our investments in innovations in the durable product market,” said Jeremy Andrus, chief executive officer of Traeger. “The grill is the vehicle, but the real difference is the digital experience – the digital experience inspires cooking.”

Traeger has a proprietary technology called WiFIRE, with which grillers can control and monitor their grill via the company’s app, an Apple Watch or with voice control via Amazon Alexa or Google Home. You can also select recipes via the Traeger app and use the “Make Now” function, which carries out the cooking cycle of the recipe on the connected grill.

“This semi-automatic cooking experience takes away the uncertainty when preparing a new dish and inspires Traeger owners,” said the company in its S-1 registration.

It was crucial for Traeger to dig deeper into their audience, as Andrus says data indicates that 80% of Traeger owners recommended the brand to an average of six other people. In 2020, Traeger recorded sales of 545.8 million US dollars compared to 363.3 million US dollars in 2019. In the first three months of 2021, Traeger achieved sales of 235.6 million US dollars, an increase of 107% compared to the previous year. According to its own information, the company sold a total of 2 million grills in the USA between 2016 and 2020.

Traeger has also made acquisitions to drive its technology push. In July, the company acquired Apption Labs for $ 100 million, which develops and manufactures hardware and software for small kitchen appliances, such as the MEATER wireless smart thermometer, which allows users to monitor both the temperature of their food and the cooking cycle via an app .

“Cooking is a hobby. The more you create, the more positive feedback you get and the more motivated you are to cook more, ”said Andrus. “We’ve always had cookbooks, but we’re making them digital.”