STURGIS, S.D. (KELO) — When it comes to eating and drinking, Sturgis Motorcycle Rally attendees tend to eat and drink like others in America, at least according to some buying trends at local businesses.
“I’m doing an order today (for a customer) from Chicago. It’s all organic and specialty stuff,” said Ryan Meyer, the manager of the Grocery Mart in Sturgis. “She’s buying for 10 people in a house.”
Meyer said he’d have most of what the customer requested. It would have been tougher in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic created some difficulties with the arrival and availability of certain products, he said.
Customer demand for organic food isn’t unusual during the Sturgis Rally, Meyer said. The annual rally officially starts Friday and runs through Aug. 15.
Meyer said there is a misconception in the public that rally attendees just buy lots of beer and junk food. Instead, there are attendees, “Who are cooking just like they cook at home,” Meyer said. “People would be shocked by the amount of baking and gourmet cooking that goes on.”
An increasing number of rally attendees are not staying in tents or similar arrangements but instead staying in recreational vehicles or in houses rented just for the rally, Meyer said.
“RVs have changed the game,” Meyer said. “They (attendees) have full kitchens now.”
“Twenty years ago, we sold a lot more bread, chips and those old-style Styrofoam coolers, from our business standpoint,” Meyer said.
Although the sales of gluten free, organic and the makings of full meals has increased, there is still room for beer and munchies.
“Beer, chips, water and ice. And a lot of deli (items),” manager Ed Reid said on Tuesday of what’s moving from the shelves of Lynn’s Dakotamart in Sturgis.
When the event attendance is a few hundred thousand people, including an estimated 461,000 that were there last year, there should be room for old patterns and new ones.
Reid said the beer, chips and ice are standard fares for the rally. So much so that the store has to remove some items such as pasta to make room for more chips, beer and water, he said.
Reid said he examines the prior year numbers to determine what and how many items to order for the rally.
“You take that and work in a percentage increase,” Reid said.
“We’ve got it down,” Meyer said.
Meyer was pulling Rice Krispie Treats from a shelf on Tuesday to make room for other items that will sell better during the rally.
King of beers
“Bud Light is king,” Meyer said of the most popular domestic beer sold during the rally.
Travis Parker, the manager of the city-owned Sturgis Liquor Store, agreed.
“Bud Light and right behind that is Coors Light,” Parker said.
Sales at the city’s 12,000-square-foot liquor store are a good indicator of what rally attendees like to drink, Parker said.
Regular Budweiser remains popular, he said. And the only light beer that has declined in popularity is Miller Lite, Parker said.
Like the rest of America, rally attendees have developed a taste for alternatives.
Meyer said rally goers like craft beer and local beer options.
“Bikers are changing and buying whatever everyone else does,” Meyer said.
They may like craft beers but Parker said attendees have an increased taste for seltzers. Seltzers may be causing the popularity of craft beer to drop some, he said.
Tastes, Parker said, tend to evolve just like the liquor market evolves.
Peanut butter booze?
Fireball cinnamon-flavored whiskey is still popular, Parker said.
“(Now) the big tend is flavored whiskey,” Parker said.
A company called Screwball has a peanut butter-flavored whiskey.
Parkers said in 2020 he sold 75 cases of that peanut butter-flavored whiskey during the rally.
While new flavors will influence the buying trend, Jack Daniels remains the rally’s whiskey of choice, Parker said.
Parker said while the liquor store has enough storage to help keep up with demand it can also get product from warehouses in Rapid City.
The store recorded $651,735 in sales in August of 2020. It had an operating profit of $161,628 that month.
The store records more sales and operating profits in August than in other years.
Numbers for 2021 could reach or surpass 2021 totals as officials have said the rally attendance could be larger than last year.
Keeping up with demand when as many as 500,000 could descend on the city for several days can be a bit tricky, Parker said.
Overall, South Dakota does not consume a lot of alcohol compared to other states, he said. So, it can be a lower priority on the distribution list compared to higher population areas, Parker said.
The combined population of Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska, is more than the 500,000 who could attend the rally, Parker said. That populated area would be more of a priority for distribution, he said.
Will a rally attendee need a painkiller?
The Grocery Mart will sell about 20 to 30 bottles of pain reliever during a typical week, Meyer said.
During the rally, “we sell about 500 to 600 bottles a week,” Meyer said.
Chapstick, sunscreen, toothpaste and shampoo are also popular rally items
“We probably sell a couple hundred tubes of chapstick,” Meyer said of the rally. “During the rest of the year we sell maybe 50 tubes.”