Grills! Grills! Grills!
A serial entrepreneur tries to make disposable grills friendly for foodies and the environment.
(Fortune Small Business) -- Serial entrepreneur Phillip Swan, 46, visited his native England last year and ended up in charge of a cookout for 20 people at his best friend's house. Instead of firing up his massive propane BBQ, Swan's buddy brought out disposable grills: baking pans with built-in cooking racks.
"I basically used his $3,000 stainless-steel grill as a stand for the disposable ones," Swan recalls, laughing.
Back home in Kirkland, Wash., Swan researched single-use grills and learned that they had won more than 50% of the charcoal grill market in Australia, the U.K. and countries throughout Europe and the Middle East. So this summer he unveiled a version for American consumers, called EZ Grill, which is available in two sizes and provides about 90 minutes of cooking time. It comes loaded with charcoal made from agricultural by-products -- rice and wheat husks -- and its packaging and aluminum base are recyclable. (EZ Grill's "environmentally friendly" branding is a stretch; despite the components, it's still a use-and-toss product.)
At first Swan projected 2009 revenues of $100,000. But with EZ Grill in 13,000 stores, including 7-Eleven, he's now expecting five times that figure.
These are hard times in the charcoal grill market. Sales are weak; former charcoal loyalists are switching to gas grills, which aren't so messy. Still, Swan thinks his grills will prevail by virtue of their disposability. After all, what's a mess when you don't have to clean it up?To write a note to the editor about this article, click here.