As a business built on reinventing how people give gifts, Man Crates values our partners that take a similar approach to their respective businesses. We recently had the opportunity to visit The Companion Group, one of our go-to partner for all things grilling. See their recipe for constantly coming up with new ways to flip the grilling industry like a smoky T-bone.
Still innovating like a startup after more than 30 years
Our tour began in the conference room. This isn’t your typical, wood-paneled, corporate meeting space. It’s an impressive showroom covered wall to wall with products. We’re talking grilling gear we never knew existed. (Looking at you, pepper grilling basket.) And we’re no strangers to grilling. But when we laid eyes on this stuff, we were like, “How have we gotten by without this?!” There are your standards, like spatulas, rib racks, meat claws and grilling mitts. Then there are the products designed to take your grilling experience to new heights. Like portable propane-powered pizza ovens and state-of-the-art bug repelling devices.
The Company Group is a family of five brands serving a variety of purposes. But they all have one thing in common: To make backyard entertaining more enjoyable.
Those are the basics, but we had questions...
Lots of questions. Leah Belzer-Adams, The Companion Group’s COO and daughter of Chuck Adams company’s founder, was generous enough to answer all of them. The team representing product development and industrial design were helpful resources as well. We’ll top-line it for you with a quick recap.
Q. How many products do you make?
A. “We have more than 70 patents.”
Q. Which ones are your top sellers?
A. “Actually, the Bug Zapper and the Pitt Mitt® Pro Barbecue Gloves.”
Q. What was your most complicated product to create?
A. “Our pizza oven. It took one and a half years to develop. We had never done anything with natural gas before. Cooking pizza is really hard to do because the best results happen at 800° F.
Q. What are the latest trends in grilling?
A. “Incorporating the grill into the smart home. Another big one is grilling at the table, so salt blocks. We also see a lot going on with smoking and cooking meals from top to bottom. The infrared pizza oven cooks pizzas in five minutes with stones that can withstand much higher heat.”
Q. What’s something we’d be surprised to learn about your business?
A. “Internationally, Europe is really into American eating trends and food styles. They specifically ask for designs that feature stars, stripes, and cowboys on BBQ products.
Building a reputation for innovation
Since 1984, The Companion Group has been introducing products that have become the new standard in grilling. It all began with The Charcoal Group’s cylindrical charcoal starter. Now, the company customizes and brands its products for a who’s-who of cooking retailers—and Man Crates, of course.
Coming up with what’s next is one of the fun parts for the team at The Companion Group. The process is ongoing. Flipping through a tech mag, dining out at a restaurant, scribbling on a napkin. New ideas can come from anywhere—and a freeform, organic process is encouraged. As Leah told us, “Anything can be a product.” From a technical standpoint, the design team will draw up an idea in CAD (Computer-Aided Design). They consider how to make it unique, searching for the “wow” factor whenever possible. Then they develop proof of concept and create a model with a 3D printer to get people handling the piece. Once the potential product graduates to prototype form, Nick, the resident chef, tests it out and provides his feedback.
After hearing all about the products, it was time to see one in action. Nick prepared a grilled pizza feast for us, with the help of two Pizzeria Pronto Outdoor Pizza Ovens. He cooked up a variety of pizzas in less than 10 minutes each. For such a quick time in the oven, the crust was just right—light, thin, and perfectly crispy. We saw firsthand how these innovative oven are perfect for whipping up a relatively fast, easy and delicious meal.
Nick has the technique down, but might we make product suggestion? The Automatic Pizza Dough Tosser!
Pronto is an appropriate name. This baby was good and grilled in a mere five minutes.
Man Crates proudly features The Companion Group’s products in our grilling crates. And we applaud their dedication to innovation. A big thanks to Leah, Nick, Jonathan, Cory, Kwame and the rest of team.
Learn more about The Companion Group products that help make our grilling crates among the best gifts for men.