It’s no secret that the outdoor cooking industry has been hit hard in 2022. The post-pandemic downturn has even caused the largest grill company, Weber, to seek out cash to make it through winter. It appears that the problems have hit Spark Grills even harder, and it’s likely that they are no longer in business.
Background on Spark Grills
Spark Grills were a newcomer to the outdoor cooking market with a new take on charcoal grilling. They developed proprietary charcoal that they called Briqs for their grills, which would allow the user to set the grill to a specific temperature. The pellet grill level of convenience was supposed to make grilling easier and also less intimidating for the charcoal grill novice.
Like most grill companies, things appeared to be going well for Spark Grills over the pandemic. They had wide media coverage and their business was going well enough that they raised $6.9 million in March to expand their operations in Colorado. That fifth financing round brought their total capital raise to $26.3 million.
We received a tip from Greg Rempe of the BBQ Central Show that Spark Grills may be out of business. While no official word has been announced, it appears that there likely is truth to the rumor.
The first thing we did when we heard the rumor is we reached out to the main contact email at Spark Grills. Not only did we not hear back, the email was kicked back as not-deliverable.
All of the grills and proprietary charcoal Briqs on Spark Grills’ website are listed as sold out. No other information is given, you just can’t purchase anything.
There are many stories on Reddit and across other social media platforms of customers trying to reach Spark Grills through various methods and receiving no response.
The founder and CEO of Spark Grills is (was?) Ben West. According to his LinkedIn profile, it lists an end date of his employment as founder as October 2022. It also says under his name on his profile “What’s next?”.
Finally, within the past couple of days the official Spark Grills Youtube page posted a poorly produced video of how to use your Spark Grill with regular charcoal. It’s worth noting that using regular charcoal eliminates any control features that you have with their proprietary Briqs. The comment section below the video features complaints about customers being left in the dark from Spark Grills.
It seems the evidence strongly points to Spark Grills being out of business, so what happened? While we don’t know for sure we can speculate based on what we do know.
As we mentioned above, they raised money for expansion right before the total market crash for grills. In hindsight, that was the worst possible time for expansion. Being a small start-up, they don’t have the financial cushion of a larger company to weather a slowdown. Had they not expanded, they could have raised a financing round to support cash burn and weather the storm while they sold down inventory.
If Spark Grills did go out of business it leaves their customers in a bad spot. They’re left with a grill that needs proprietary charcoal to operate properly, with no way to get the charcoal. They’re effectively left with an expensive charcoal grill that’s going to perform worse than an entry level Weber Kettle.
Spark Grills should come out with an official announcement. While it’s painful for all parties involved, their customers believed in their company and deserve to know.
While it was great to see a start-up in the outdoor cooking space innovating, it’s sad that it ends like this. It will make it harder for future innovators with any kind of proprietary technology.