Memorial Day is a day meant to pay tribute to and honor our fallen military service members. Americans have a variety of ways to commemorate the holiday, but travel is typically one of the most common means of doing so. AAA predicts more than 42 million will be traveling more than 50 miles for Memorial Day weekend this year. 

The latest CivicScience data among U.S. adults show 65% have celebration plans in place – a three percent jump from last year – a majority of whom will be prioritizing social time. Among those with plans, cookouts are the most popular – one-third (33%) look to either host or attend a cookout. Another 31% have other plans carved out to spend time with family or friends. Fourteen percent will be traveling out of town this year.

Among Gen Z adults, 21% have out-of-town travel plans, making them the age group most likely to do so. Adults aged 35-54 represent the highest percentage of individuals organizing cookouts, whereas those aged 55 and older are the most inclined to spend time with friends and family outside of a cookout or attending a Memorial Day event.

The recent ending of the COVID national emergency signified the gradually improving situation that has had far-reaching effects. One such effect is the significant shift in how people plan to connect with loved ones for Memorial Day festivities. Among those who typically celebrate the holiday, 71% plan to meet up with loved ones in-person as normal – a 14 percentage-point jump from last year.

What’s cooking on the grill?

What will those hosting Memorial Day cookouts this year be tossing on their grills? Cookout staples hamburgers and hot dogs unsurprisingly lead the way for 73% and 66% respectively. Chicken (47%), ribs (34%), and steak (32%) follow behind as the next most popular menu items. Fish and other seafood are a much less common choice at 16%.

Plant-based meat items are the least popular among grillers. Interest in plant-based meat looked to be losing momentum, as shown by CivicScience data from March. It’s clear these meat substitutes still have a significant gap to bridge in order to rival the prominent choices of traditional grilling favorites during major holidays like Memorial Day.

About 31% of adults 21+ who plan to celebrate Memorial Day this year also plan to do so with alcoholic beverages in their hands – a percentage that’s changed only slightly, dropping a single percentage point since last year. A look at beer brand favorability among those planning on celebrating Memorial Day with alcohol reveals Heineken represents the highest favorability (40%). Michelob Ultra, Coors Light, and Miller Lite are locked in a tight contest with Budweiser on their heels. Bud Light is the only beer failing to crack at least 30% favorability among Memorial Day celebrators.

Of the many things that emerged from the pandemic is an increased value of time over money. As the worst days of the pandemic appear to be in the rearview, this bears out as social gatherings for big holidays like Memorial Day are roaring back. This could certainly make for a favorable mix for meat and alcohol brands as summer cookouts look to heat up as a result.

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