For us carnivores, outdoor grilling can be a bastion of tranquility.
Enjoying an adult beverage and "checking the meat" seems to be one of the favorite activities of men during the warm weather months. Whether alone or in groups- like our hunter-gatherer ancestors- men gravitate to the flame; knowing they are fulfilling their destiny of feeding the tribe. Complementing a man on his grill skills is one of the greatest that can be passed along.
In many ways, grilling is also a rite of passage. Remember the first time your Dad let you do the burgers on the grill alone? I was already driving a couple of years before being finally entrusted with the family fork and spatula.
In the U.S., the outdoor grill market is around $4 billion a year. Not surprising, about 60% of all the grills sold are imports, almost all of them from China. That number has been rising every year for the past decade. And, as we also might expect, the biggest sellers of grills are the Big-Boxes: Wal-Mart, Home Depot, et. al.
Still, there are several U.S. grill manufacturers who are doing well and staying out of the "Offshoring / Big Box Trap".
One, in particular, recently caught my attention: The Big Green Egg.
The Big Green Egg is entrepreneur Ed Fisher's refinement of a 3,000 year-old Asian oven known as a "kamado". It really looks like an egg, with its green ceramic dome serving as a grill, oven, and smoker. In full disclosure, I bought one in April and absolutely love it!
Manufactured in Smyrna, Georgia, more than a million Eggs have been sold worldwide since 1975. They are exported to 24 countries.
Fisher's philosophy in selling and distributing his Eggs and Eggcessories is simple: they are only available in 2,000 select barbecue and hearth specialty stores, pool and patio shops, and specialized hardware and garden/nursery outlets, which are serviced by 12 distributors nationwide.
Fisher consciously decided to stay out of big-box stores, opting for more limited sales at specialty stores favored by serious outdoor cooks. "When you go to a grill store, they know grills," he says.
The company's growth rate has averaged 20% each of the past ten years.
Equally impressive is the following of the company's tens of thousands of "Eggheads", many of which have owned their Eggs for years. They have their own Web pages where they post photos of the wood-fed, egg-shaped beasts. They even have their own terminology, plays on words like "eggnition" and "eggnormous." Children sometimes dye their hair green for "family" reunions.
A quality product made by Americans, sold through independent American dealers, and enjoyed by American consumers over the long-term. What a radical, sustainable notion.