SALT LAKE CITY — Even a casual perusal of social media nodes reflects that Traeger Grill's goal of creating a "more flavorful world" is one that's resonating with its rabid audience.
Earlier this month, following the company's release of a slate of updates to its wood pellet grills, as well as a new model, its enthusiastic audience jumped in with tens of thousands of posts and pictures of their own grilling successes on Traeger cookers.
Denny Bruce, Traeger's executive vice president of global sales and marketing, said while the company likely has the most advanced designs of any of its competitors, the focus has always been on what comes out of the grill as much was what goes into it.
"We arguably have the most technological products in the space," Bruce said. "But, it's all about what it creates. When individuals have this great output, creating amazing food on their Traeger … of course they want to share it."
Bruce said the company has revamped its product line for 2019 with updates to previous models as well as an entirely new entry, the Ironwood. While the ability to monitor and control the cookers via a Wi-Fi-enabled smarthpone app have now been extended beyond the top-end Timberline, Bruce said a new motor and augur, the apparatus that feeds the wood pellets into the firebox, have been completely redesigned and the result is significant.
The new "transmission," Bruce said, includes an upgraded, brushless 20-volt electric motor and single-piece direct auger that can feed pellets in at a variable rate, versus the old single-speed system, leading to "more consistent temperature control … and a reduction time-to-temperature by 30 percent."
The WiFIRE smartphone control system is also available with the new Ironwood grills as well as select models of the Pro series. The app not only allows users to monitor and make adjustments, remotely, to their cookers, but can also download recipes directly to the grill for a set-it-and-forget-it operation.
Traeger CEO Jeremy Andrus, a Utah tech veteran who previously helped turn headphone specialist SkullCandy from a boutique electronics company in Park City into a global player, said the 2019 revamps are helping propel pellet grilling to "the next level."
“Traeger has been pushing the boundaries of outdoor cooking since its birth over 30 years ago, reinventing the way people around the world think about grilling through remarkable wood-fired taste and convenience,” Andrus said in a statement. “We’re proud to take another huge leap forward today as we introduce game-changing D2 Direct Drive and WiFIRE technology that truly takes grilling to the next level, whether you’re just starting out, or a seasoned pro.”
While Traeger's history extends back decades to its launch in Mt. Angel, Oregon by the Traeger family, Andrus and investment partner Trilantic North America acquired the company, moved its headquarters to a new building in Sugar House and Andrus took over the helm as CEO in 2014. Since that time, heavy investment in product innovation and a multichannel marketing campaign has borne fruit, with annual revenues more than quintupling the $70 million yearly take the company was bringing in, pre-Andrus.
And, a path toward continued growth will likely be bolstered by the increasing popularity of pellet grilling over the more traditional methods using gas or charcoal.
While sales of gas grills are on the decline and charcoal-fired units have been seeing only moderate growth, according to data mined by Statista.com, sales of pellet grills are increasing at near double-digit rates. According to a Forbes piece from last year, Traeger is enjoying a 70 percent share of the outdoor cooking market, in spite of a host of new entries into the sector.
The Statista report noted in 2016, U.S. consumers spent nearly $1.5 billion on grills and barbecues, up some $300 million since 2009. Traeger products fall into the higher end of the market, with its top-end Timberline retailing for between $1,800 to $2,000, depending on features, but a no-frills Junior Elite can be had for about $400.9 comments on this story
Andrus, a BYU graduate who also earned an MBA at Harvard Business School, told the Deseret News in an interview last year that the key to successful product development, be it focused on headphones or outdoor cookers, is staying focused on the end-user experience.
"When you look at Skullcandy and Traeger, other than the fact that they’re different products, the analogs are there," Andrus said. "Understanding who your consumer is and how you create innovative solutions that address their needs.
"That is the art in a consumer product business, because a consumer never tells you what their problem is. They don’t know what’s possible."