The hot dog and sausage industry is a $15 billion business, with revenue increasing by 2% in 2017. In its “September 2017 Hot Dog & Sausage Production in the U.S.” report, IBISWorld estimated that revenue will grow at an annualized rate of 2.1% to $16.6 billion over the next five years to 2022.
IBISWorld noted recently that sales of dinner sausage, including Italian sausage and bratwurst, also peak during summer months, with dollar sales accounting for nearly one-third of annual sales. Nielsen Co. data showed that breakfast sausage sales peak during holiday months from November through January.
At Cenex Zip Trip convenience stores hot dogs, sausages and other roller grill products are year-round big sellers, making this category an integral part of the stores’ overall foodservice sales, said Jon Fleck, the company’s merchandising manager. Last year, roller grill sales were up more than 15% over 2016 and Fleck expects them to continue to grow.
“Our customers like our roller grill products because they’re hot, they have a great smell and they can be customized with our great selection of condiments,” said Fleck.
Almost all 35 Zip Trip stores in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota have roller grills, except for the few stores that are too small to accommodate one. Depending on the size of the stores and their volume of sales in the category, the grills range from three to five hot dogs wide.
Fleck explained that during mid-morning through the dinner rush, the stores feature up to seven different roller grill products. In the morning, the assortment is mostly breakfast sausages and breakfast tornados. After 10 a.m., that changes to hot dogs, dinner sausages, hamburger and chicken roller bites and other tornados.
Mexican-style items, such as tornados are taking the roller grill category by storm, said Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst for NPD Group research firm. Over a five-year trend to 2017, these products took a big leap—up 59%—in traditional convenience stores.
At Zip Trip, the best-selling roller grill items by far are the Hillshire Farm Cheddarwurst and Angus Beef Ball Park Hot Dogs, Fleck said. Research from a Harris Poll conducted last May showed that beef was the ingredient Americans wanted most in their hot dogs. It was the top choice of 61% of consumers, while 12% preferred pork and 7% turkey.
In that same survey, 38% of respondents said they prefer hot dogs with natural casing. Twenty-five percent chose skinless.
In addition to the regular line-up, the stores rotate a limited time offer (LTO) item every two months “to bring some new things to the grill,” said Fleck.