Once viewed as a rogue alternative to traditional funerals, cremation has earned its place in mainstream culture. The Cremation Association of North America’s annual trends report showed the number of families choosing cremation over traditional burial shows a steady growth rate. In the past 15 years, the U.S. cremation rate has nearly doubled (to 46.7%), and is on target to surpass burials within two years. Barbara Kemmis, executive director CANA, explained, “the statistics do point to cremation rates continuing to rise, and while there will eventually be a plateauing, we haven’t hit that plateau yet.”
The 2015 NFDA Cremation and Burial Report found approximately one-third of funeral homes in the United States now operate their own crematories; another 10% plan to open their own within the next five years. While there are several factors that influence these personal decisions, the trends show there are commonalities based on geographic locations, generational practices and religious affiliations. The reports also credited an increased focus on retirement planning and estate planning as a key contributor to the increase in cremation rates.
Although the U.S. national average is just under 50%, cremation rates can vary largely based on the population size and density of an area. Census data shows there’s a large variance between individual states, with Nevada, Oregon and Washington reporting over 70% of families selecting cremation while Mississippi, Alabama and Kentucky range in the low 20% for families opting for cremation.
Historically, Canada has shown higher rates than the U.S. for cremations. The Canadian cremation rate is close to 70%, again showing a large variance between the provinces. British Columbia & Alberta are among the highest cremation rates while New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are among the lowest rates.
Changing Consumer Demands
The increase in cremation rates is also connected to the changing demands of modern consumers. News reporter David Madrid explained that as our society became more mobile, there was less of a focus on having one’s remains buried within their own community. Earlier generations valued being laid to rest in their hometown (or homeland), either by burial in family-owned land or burial in a formal cemetery, family plot or crypt. Modern consumers are less concerned with this practice. Cremation also provides flexibility for families that are separated geographically. A traditional burial must occur within days of the passing, which limits the time available for travel and logistics. Cremation provides the option of a delayed memorial service to allow more people to pay their respects.
Cremation has always been a cost-effective alternative when planning funeral arrangements. While costs vary widely from region to region, cremation is typically one-third the cost of a traditional burial. Funeral expenses are an important component of financial planning and estate planning. Many clients don’t want to burden their families with unexpected expenses, while others simply cannot afford the staggering costs a traditional burial, which can exceed $10,000. Cremation offers an affordable option to consumers seeking a budget-conscious solution.
Industry experts are confident that cremation rates will continue to rise, and this is reflected in the changing trends of the funeral director industry as well. The NFDA indicated there are more first generation mortuary business owners versus earlier decades, and more than 60% of mortuary science students in the United States are women. With changing generations and modern traditions, the cremation industry is poised for growth in the coming decades. Is your facility poised to handle this growth? Does your capital improvements plan account for this shift in consumer demand?
Global Bronze offers customized solutions to maximize the profitability of your dedicated memorial space. Our collection of glass front niches, columbarium niches and cremation gardens provide multiple configurations for updating your memorial properties and generating additional revenue. Our team of experienced memorial consultants will review your facility and provide targeted design solutions that fit seamlessly within your current footprint. We’ll also use historical data to forecast the impact on your bottom line. Click here to contact Global Bronze and request your property analysis today!