A patio fueled by propane
Breaking down the shifts in consumer behavior trends in the outdoor propane products market

In recent years, a remarkable transformation has occurred in how consumers perceive and use outdoor spaces. Fueled by an increased desire for connection, relaxation and culinary exploration, the outdoor living market has experienced a significant boom, with propane products at the forefront of this revolution. It is evident that the market for outdoor living products has undergone notable shifts and opportunities for industry players. Since the explosive post-boom growth in 2020, the outdoor living products market has evolved in several ways to meet the demands of its consumers.

The market has witnessed a proliferation of propane-powered products beyond traditional grills and heaters. From portable fire pits to sophisticated outdoor kitchens and pizza ovens, consumers have demanded and now have many options to elevate their outdoor experience. The boom in 2020 has left a lasting imprint on the outdoor living propane products market, with several direct consequences — including the shift in consumer behavior. The pandemic-induced lifestyle changes left many with a lasting preference for outdoor activities and gatherings. This sustained demand for reimagined outdoor living products reflects a fundamental shift in how people engage with their outdoor spaces.

A patio fireplace running on propane
Image courtesy of Maschino’s

Retailers and manufacturers now need to meet customers where they are. There has been a clear transformation from the previous demands of functional to now aesthetically pleasing and cohesive suites of outdoor products. This article will explore how the market evolved from the post-2020 boom to today. The good news is that many of these installations are powered by propane. We will hear from dealers and retailers to get their perspective and look at some recent Hearth, Patio & Barbecue (HPB) Expo award-winning products, backyard kitchens and fire features appliances.


Specialty hearth retailers and longtime propane marketers are finding profitable opportunities in these categories. Joan Nutting, the store manager of Maschino’s, a major outdoor dealer in Springfield, Missouri, reports that full outdoor kitchen sales continue to grow, with at least 50% of the installations she does using propane, 90% of which are plumbed-in. Maschino works in parts of four states and sees a lot of large, custom fire pit installations and, increasingly, radiant gas heaters. Nutting sees several incredibly large grills, with side burners and 20,000-60,000 Btu power burners for families that want to entertain larger groups and need the big pots.

A patio fireplace by a pool running off of propane
Image courtesy of Cunningham Oil.

As a propane marketer highly active in this category, Stacy Cunningham-Welch is president of a family-owned business with two locations in the greater Daytona Beach area. Cunningham-Oil does it all; air conditioning, heat, propane and generators have also seen much growth in outdoor hearth products. When asked about the market expansion during and just after the pandemic, she said, “The pandemic created the perfect environment for these smoke-free fire pits to thrive, and demand skyrocketed.” Propane outdoor living products met consumers’ need to invest in their homes. Cunningham-Welch goes on, “Since the beginning of the pandemic, these have become more popular due to homeowners spending more time at home and investing in their backyards. We incorporate fire features into a variety of outdoor designs like covered outdoor living spaces, patios, pools and gardens.”

The ability to spend time with loved ones outside has had staying power. “Over the last few years, people have been seeking out creative ways to spend time with loved ones in a safe way. For many, this led to an inclination to spend more time outdoors,” Cunningham-Welch notes. This trend is likely to continue as consumers are continually looking for ways to update the comfort of their outdoor living spaces. She reiterated that not only functionality is needed, but there is also a need for a common thread of style as their outdoor space is “another room and an extension of the home.”

In some areas, the propane marketers are happy to leave the product sales to hearth specialists. Kyle Mattes of North Texas Fire Designs (North Texas Chimney) reports that they cross-refer customers to several propane dealers in their Denton, Texas, market. Their store is seeing enough growth in the outdoor category to add a 4,000-square-foot outdoor display area that will burn up to 3 million Btu when everything is running. They see a rise in larger custom homes and a lot of propane appliances.

Casey Harvey, vice president of RMI Distributors, a long-standing supplier in the propane business and active in the National Propane Gas Association, points out that while interest in outdoor kitchens has ebbed a little from the pandemic-induced surge, the trend is still very much up, historically speaking. He believes that “outdoor kitchens have become mainstreamed for affluent consumers, and as high-quality products have become available at lower prices, increasingly middle-income consumers are entering the market. Getting a complete high-quality outdoor kitchen for under $8,000 is now possible.” The increased availability of outdoor quality cabinetry to match the stainless grills has helped this trend tremendously.

Harvey adds that there is an increased rate of “piped propane systems due to the Btu loads of high-powered grills, fire features and outdoor heating.” Harvey is confident that “the propane industry can play a leading role in the outdoor living market. As gas experts, we can ensure the safe and efficient use of propane in American backyards while promoting the products that bring American families together.”

In addition to the substantial number of grill manufacturers in this space, the growth in burners and other components for custom work has been phenomenal. Companies such as Warming Trends and Firegear keep innovative ideas coming, and the “grandaddy” of them all, HPC, has been a leader in this category for decades. There are dozens of innovative vendors in this category, such as the Outdoor Great Room and R.H. Peterson’s American Fyre Designs.

It is increasingly evident that when you find a consumer who loves outdoor fire features, they can go ‘all in.’ In Clovis, California, Robert Vieira of Ponderosa Hearth and Home, reports one customer with five fire features on his property: fire pits, tempest torches, a sound-reactive fire pit and fire bowls around the pool. Clovis, a suburb of Fresno, California, has also seen an increase in plumbed systems as consumers wear out entry-level grills and move to step up their outdoor area with major stainless systems such as FireMagic. Vieira also points out that more traditional fireplace products are doing a much better job concealing their metal. “Consumers want stainless, of course, but they don’t want to see it.”

Outdoor products were a focal point at this year’s HPBExpo in Nashville, as in years past. There is a continued trend of updating classic outdoor appliances to fit the motif of the consumer’s aesthetic preferences. The propane-powered Scorpio Pizza Oven won an Attendees’ Choice Award for the New Product Pavilion in 2023. Again, in 2024, the Duomo Pizza Oven, by Coyote, won the Barbecue section Attendees’ Choice Award. Both products were inspired by new innovations in the product category and an increased emphasis on the appliance’s appearance. Also, in 2024, the Attendees’ Choice Award for Outdoor Living went to the Chat Table by Fire Garden of Travis Industries.

While social distancing is behind us, the trend of being outdoors in a shared community has stuck with consumers. As manufacturers, retailers and installers continue to innovate and add fresh new looks to this product segment, growth will likely follow suit.

The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) is the North American industry trade association for manufacturers, retailers, distributors, representatives, service firms and allied associates for all fireplace, stove, heater, barbecue, and outdoor living products and services. The HPBA’s mission is to promote and advance the industries it represents through advocacy, education and networking opportunities.


Cooking Up New Ideas in Outdoor Propane Products