Don’t Get Left Behind in a Changing Industry

By Dan Sauder, reprinted from Funeral Business Advisor ( 

Have you noticed that the families who walk into your funeral homes are different than they were just 10 years ago? Thanks to information available through the Internet, social media, and pop culture, today’s consumers know more about what they want from a funeral service.

How do better-informed consumers and changes in their preferences impact the funeral industry? Funeral directors need to focus on giving families what they want while remaining profitable.

As funeral professionals, it’s our job to know how quickly consumer preferences are changing and how best to prepare for today and tomorrow. Through our own research with funeral directors, consumers, and other industry studies, we’ve formulated this list of the top five trends shaping the funeral industry:

  • Affordability is key. Families are looking for cost-effective service solutions. Recent surveys from the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) and other industry insiders prove that modern families want to honor their loved one in a way that is more affordable. The average consumer today knows that there are inexpensive funeral and casket options available, and they’re willing to do the work to find an option that fits their budget. In fact, 50 percent of families said they shopped two or more funeral homes, and 25 percent looked at the Internet to educate themselves about the options available to them.

  • Cremation trend is steep. Families are choosing cremation in large numbers. Many deaths in the future will be among individuals who have already decided that they prefer cremation rather than the once-preferred traditional funeral service and burial. According to studies conducted by the NFDA and the Cremation Association of North America (CANA), it’s predicted that the demand for cremation will rise to 70 percent of the market by 2030.

  • In the past, traditional services and burials have been a main source of profit for funeral homes, and they dominated much of a funeral home’s daily business. To continue to succeed in a changing market, funeral directors need to provide families with affordable and attractive cremation casket options. Value-priced products like these generate profit by giving families the option to hold a traditional service and viewing before a cremation.

  • Consumers prefer wood. Earlier this year, we conducted a series of consumer focus groups and funeral director research to learn more about what it is that grieving families really want and need.

  • This research confirmed that consumers prefer wood caskets. When deciding between comparably-priced wood and metal caskets, 58 percent of consumers selected wood. They used words like “comfort,” “warmth,” and “simplicity” to describe the wood products.

  • But while consumers may prefer wood, a separate research study confirmed that only 18 percent of funeral directors were extremely interested in carrying a line of high-quality, value-priced wood caskets. We expect this percentage will increase as demand for affordable wood burial and cremation options increases.

  • Eco-friendly and made in America are also important. Through our research, we learned that many families and individuals value the importance of eco-friendly products. We predict this will continue to be a trend that grows as U.S. consumers continue to seek education about the importance of protecting the environment and preserving our earthly resources. Eighty percent of those who participated in our research study confirmed that products being manufactured in America were an important consideration for them.

  • Decades of demand ahead. According to the National Aging Information Center, by 2040 the death rate in the U.S. will rise from 2.5 million to 3.8 million, a whopping 50 percent increase. As funeral directors experience more traffic through their funeral homes there will be a corresponding increase in the number of attractive, affordable products and services needed to serve this broader demand.

Anticipating these trends, casket companies can help funeral directors to give families what they want, and provide them profitable product and service options in a changing marketplace.

Dan Sauder is executive vice president of engineering and new markets for Sauder Woodworking Co., and part of the third generation Sauder family. More than eight years ago, Sauder launched Sauder Funeral Products to address growing needs in a changing funeral industry by providing families with affordable and beautiful wood caskets for burial and cremation. All Sauder funeral products are made in Archbold, Ohio, where Dan oversees the funeral products division. Prior to working at Sauder, he was plant engineer for Georgia Pacific Particleboard in Russellville, S.C. Dan is a graduate of Clemson University with a degree in industrial engineering, and he obtained his professional engineering license in manufacturing engineering. Dan can be reached by phone at 866-419-3070 or by email He was elected in November 2015 to a three-year term on CFSA’s Board of Directors.