Spices, Rubs Making Headway In Gourmet Channel

Independent gourmet retail stores, in recent years, have reaped the rewards of consumers taking their grilling efforts beyond summer barbecues and keeping the coals hot for a plethora of holidays and key family events throughout the year.

But once consumers purchase their grill and needed accessory items, the challenge for store owners is to find ways to keep home grillers coming back for more.

A tool for many stores in recent years has been consumer’s growing appetite for unique barbecue sauces and rubs, many of which differ greatly from the items sold by large grocery store chains.

This differentiation has allowed some stores, such as The Coastal Cupboard in Mount Pleasant, SC, to become a destination for a host of unique flavor combinations. Brad Pitner, the store’s owner, noted that while products like Big Green Egg allowed him to build a strong foundation in grilling and barbecue, the ability to connect with companies that specialize in unique sauces and rubs has given him an opportunity to further connect with grilling aficionados in his region.

In fact, the store’s barbecue flavorings have become so popular, he cleared store space and developed the “Rub Hub,” an area within his store that offers a broad selection of unique rubs. He noted that a major factor in the growth of specialty rubs, spices and sauces has been through social media, most notably Instagram.

Pitner pointed to companies such as the Waxahachie, TX-based Meat Church, which is active on Instagram and, as of the end of December, had 145,000 followers on the social media outlet.

“There are so many great folks out there running these companies and coming up with unique rubs,” he said.

In addition to Meat Church, Pitner has also connected with other specialty suppliers of rubs and sauces such as Lane’s BBQ in Bethlehem, GA, who he touted as a leader in the craft rub and sauces movement. In fact, The Coastal Cupboard is listed on Lane’s website as a select retail location.

Pitner said being a select retail location allows his store to continually update the rubs and sauces from Lane, which provide his store’s most ardent grillers the opportunity to constantly try new products, which aids with repeat business. With social media connecting hard-core grillers from across the country and giving retailers such as Pitner information and access to a variety of products, the next step is educating customers on what flavors work well with specific food types.

“We talk a lot with our customers to find out what they are grilling and what flavor profiles they like,” he explained. “Often time we are able to work with our shoppers and come up with something new. One thing about barbecue guys, they are always willing to try new stuff, which is what is helping drive the business.”