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Tailgating Trends 2022

September 19, 2022


Explore national tailgating habits and etiquette

Hormel Foods Corporation (NYSE: HRL), a Fortune 500 global branded food company, conducted its latest consumer survey about tailgating preferences across the country. Hormel Foods provides game-day food staples and wanted to learn about consumers’ preferences and behaviors as we return to pre-pandemic tailgating rituals. The aim was to take a comprehensive look at habits and routines around the occasion to help assess current consumer interest and evaluate trends.

Most Coveted Jobs

Grill Master
Side Dish Taster
Game Hype Man

The Data

While overall results revealed compelling insights into the ways sports fans celebrate their favorite teams through food, the state-by-state responses to some questions were unexpected. From attitudes about the perfect tailgate snack to whether people agree that food choices provide insights into another person’s character, it’s clear that consumers feel strongly that food greatly impacts the tailgate experience.

“Grill master” is the most coveted job to have at a tailgating event. The survey found:

  • 29% believe working the grill to be the best job while tailgating, while 25% opt for “side dish taster” or “game hype man” (23%).
    • Other tailgate duties include cup refiller (18%) and food server (18%).
    • 34% of respondents agree that it’s better to have one designated person work the grill, rather than rotating between people (30%).
  • It’s no surprise that portable grills are the most popular cooking method for tailgating (67%).
    • Those on the East Coast, like Pennsylvania (76%) and Virginia (74%), are most likely to choose this method.
    • Almost half (49%) of respondents prefer traditional outdoor grills, especially those in the warm weather Southeast states, like Alabama (62%) and Mississippi (62%).
    • The third most popular cooking method is a crock pot (38%), which was found to be exceedingly popular in South Dakota (56%) but very unpopular in Hawaii (19%).

Unspoken Rules

of respondents
believe that everyone attending a tailgate should bring at least one item
of respondents
agree that if someone brings nothing, they are less likely to be invited

The Data

The survey also explored how tailgaters use food and friends to create the most fun event possible:

  • The average respondent attends two tailgates per year, with the optimal group size being 11 people on average.
  • Tailgaters typically arrive about two hours before the game. Respondents cited their friends (56%) and themselves (42%) as the most likely people to arrive first.
  • Predictably, the vast majority of respondents (84%) believe that everyone attending a tailgate should bring at least one item.
    • This unspoken rule is highly respected as almost half (46%) of respondents agree that if someone brings nothing, they are less likely to be invited to the next tailgate.
  • Surprisingly, almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents are even likely to bring their favorite dish regardless of if others enjoy it. Overall, the perfect tailgate has five different dishes.
  • Almost three in 10 (29%) prefer to make something from scratch, whereas 22% just pick something up from the store.

Best Foods

Hot Dogs

The Data

Tailgates may look different around the country, but gathering with friends and family to enjoy food during a game is universal. Here’s a rundown of how people share love through food while tailgating:

  • The best foods to bring to a tailgate were found to be burgers (66%), hot dogs (56%) and chips (52%).
  • But a few states vary from those top choices and are more likely to opt for a hot dog over a burger, like those in the Midwest and West, such as Arizona (66% vs 58%) and Washington (60% vs 55%).
  • In comparison, the worst foods are ice cream and popsicles (41%), pie (24%) and salad (23%).
  • While only 12% of all respondents believe pasta salad is a tailgate staple, 34% of those who live in Maine believe it is one of the best.
    • These choices could be because according to respondents, the perfect tailgate food is portable (58%), easy to cook (56%) and has a long shelf-life outside of the fridge (48%).
  • But respondents do agree on the worst things to forget to bring to a tailgate — plates (70%), napkins (54%) and cups (46%) ranked at the top of the list.
  • In the end, almost three quarters (72%) of respondents agree that the food selection can make or break a tailgate.

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 5,000 U.S. general population state-by-state (100 each) was commissioned by Hormel Foods between August 8 and August 17, 2022. The survey was conducted by market research company OnePoll. Participants were asked to answer questions about their tailgating routines and rituals, including habits around gathering, food preferences and more.