Cremation rate rises faster than forecast!

The annual National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) Cremation & Burial report has been released, and the data forecasts that the cremation rate is rising faster than originally predicted.

The cremation rate was originally predicted to reach 75% by 2035, now it appears the cremation rate is more likely to reach 80% by 2035.  This forecast has implications for the funeral business as a whole, when within the last 10 years, the cremation rate has risen exponentially affecting a funeral home’s gross annual revenue.

Cremation rates in the US between 1960-2035

Credit: Statista.com

Why is the cremation rate rising so fast?

The rise in cremation is largely being driven by consumer demand for more affordable, flexible and simple funeral alternatives.  This new market of baby boomers, families living paycheck to paycheck, and consumers moving away from conventional rituals is leading a shift towards cremation services.

Comparing Cremation PricesCremation is more affordable.  The average cremation service is likely to be half to a third of the cost of a burial service.  A casket is not required, especially if a cremation memorial or direct cremation is performed.

Some funeral homes are even offering rental caskets now for the purpose of conducting a cremation funeral.  This can save $500 – $1,500 on funeral costs alone.

There is no immediate need for a cemetery plot or burial vault, both of which can add $2,000+ to the overall cost of conducting a burial service.  Embalming is not required for a cremation, so this is another general cost eliminated from the total funeral bill.  Embalming can cost anywhere between $500 – $1,000.

So, as you can quickly surmise, cremation can present an immediate saving on funeral costs of approximately $4,000.

Cremation rates across the United States

Although the cremation rate this year is forecast to be around 53%, the cremation rate still varies across the nation.  The states with the highest cremation rate (over 70%) are Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.  These are now being fast followed by states such as Arizona, California, Florida, and New Mexico.

The cremation rate is lower among the Midwest states and the southern states, although these states that had traditionally had a much lower interest in cremation, are reporting a more significant increase in their cremation rates.

An industry in change: funeral homes adapting to a new market

The funeral industry has long been a very traditional and stoic industry.  Some critics would describe it as a slow to respond to change.  However, there are funeral companies that are now specifically catering to the growing demand for cremation services.

Service Corporation International (SCI) has reduced its base cremation price in recent months, and begun a marketing campaign aimed at cremation customers.  SCI also bought 70% shares in The Neptune Society in 2011, a direct cremation company, operate a very active cremation plan direct marketing campaign, and have increased the number of Neptune Society locations in the last 5 years.

The average independent funeral home has maybe found this market shift to cremation more challenging to respond to.  A cremation service has a lower price value.  In the case of direct cremation, very minimal input is required by a funeral director, as no ceremony is provided by the funeral home.  With no casket, no funeral service, and a simple cremation service….a funeral home is looking at a significant drop in revenues!

Comparing cremation prices

Arrange a cremation onlineIt seems todays’ potential cremation consumer has become savvier, and more concerned, with comparing the costs for cremation.  Funeral homes are having to respond to this demand for transparent cremation pricing by openly disclosing cremation prices, either online or over the phone.  More funeral homes are choosing to openly offer their general price list (GPL) and cremation package pricing on their websites.  California even now legally requires a funeral home to disclose their GPL on their website.

A number of online platforms and websites have emerged aimed at providing cremation cost comparison services over the last few years.  However, a consumer must consider the subjectivity of the information provided.   Websites like Heritage Cremation and Legacy Cremation advertise a cremation service nationwide between $695 – $1,395, but do not provide a specific price for an area.  Other websites have gathered GPL’s from a range of funeral homes in an area, but may not include ALL funeral homes in an area, and require a visitor to search through funeral home after funeral home to compare pricing.  Or require a fee for a pricing report, or to submit your personal contact information to obtain a cremation price.

Some funeral home websites provide their own funeral pricing comparison charts for their own market, but may choose to omit any local providers offering a lower price than them.

DFS Memorials aims to help you quickly identify a local, independent cremation provider and provide you with his direct cremation service charge.  So, at your time of need, you do not have to become overwhelmed comparing cremation prices.  Cremation providers selected for the network all offer a ‘best value’ direct cremation package to their local community.

5 Funeral Trends that are changing death care traditions as we know them

The funeral industry is experiencing an era of change in the 21st century.  It is probably the most seismic change the death care business has experienced for over 2 centuries.  A once very traditional and stoic industry is being affected by shifts in consumer demand.

So, what funeral trends are happening?  And how are they affecting funeral homes and funeral consumers?

Funeral & Cremation Trends 2018#1  The demand for affordable cremation

Cremation has soared in popularity in the last 10 years, and in the last 3 years has moved to becoming the preferred option for the majority of Americans, with the cremation rate reaching 55% last year and set to reach 71% by 2030 according to Cremation Association of North America (CANA).

Although some families choose cremation with a funeral or memorial service, it is the demand for direct cremation as a simple, no-fuss and affordable funeral alternative that is making up the core of the cremation business.  Providers in the DFS Memorials Affordable Cremation Network report that up to 80% of cremation cases they handle are now direct cremation cases.

#2  An interest in eco-friendlier funeral alternatives

There appears to be a growing interest (especially in certain states) for eco-friendlier funeral options.  Many consider cremation eco-friendlier than a traditional burial with embalming fluids, concrete and steel being buried into the earth.  Some families that still opt for burial are considering natural burial, and even traditional cemeteries are adding hybrid green burial sections to their cemetery to cater to this demand.

#3  A break away from convention in rituals

Society is changing, and how we approach life rituals is part of that change.  There have been changes in our attitudes to how we approach births for some time now, with a greater interest in natural birthing processes.  Some families have moved away from a somber funeral ritual to choose a Life Celebration event instead, breaking the convention of a traditional funeral service.

#4  Personalization

Personalization has become quite the ‘buzz’ concept of culture today.  We all look for myriad ways to personalize our lives.  We personalize our daily lives and possessions to stamp our identity, so why not choose to host a funeral that exemplifies this quality of personalization?

This trend has meant that funeral homes are having to adapt to cater to personalized services.

#5  A return to the 19th century concept of family-led funerals

Back in the days an undertaker was largely just responsible for making a coffin and burying the deceased.  The family would prepare their loved one and lay them to rest in the parlor, holding a vigil at home to mourn their departed family member.  Eventually the business of undertaking extended to funeral parlors, and today funeral homes and funeral directors.

However, there is a trend affecting the funeral industry today, where more families are wishing to conduct a ‘DIY’ funeral for their loved one instead of just using a funeral home to conduct everything.

There are 10 states that DO require a family to employ a funeral director to conduct funeral services and handle a deceased’s body.  But that still leaves 40 states where a family can, if they so choose, opt to handle the funeral services themselves.  There are several organizations nationwide they support families who wish to conduct a family-led funeral.

These 5 trends are changing an industry that has been very traditional for many decades.  Some in the business recognize these changes and are adapting to meet the demand.  But for some in the industry, these trends are presenting them with challenges.

Burial vs. Cremation: Things to Consider

As the US shifts towards cremation as the preferred death care choice, more families are asking questions about cremation to determine if choosing cremation is the right choice for them.

Deciding about the final disposition of a loved one can be one of the biggest decisions you make if you are charged with arranging a funeral.  If your family member did not have a funeral plan in place, or had not expressed their wishes before passing, it can be even harder to make decisions.

Cremation is the ‘buzz’ word in the funeral industry now, as we have witnessed the US shift from largely traditional burials to embracing cremation and a simpler and ‘no fuss’ death care alternative.

Cremation rates in the US

Credit: NFDA

How the cremation rate is changing

Since 2012 we have witnessed a shift towards cremation.  In 2014, the National Funeral Directors Association forecast that the cremation rate nationally would hit 77.8% by 2035.  This year they have reviewed that figure to 85%.  Many funeral homes in the DFS Memorials network report that 80% of their funerals are now cremation.

Even states that remained traditional in their death care and burial attitudes are beginning to shift to cremation options.

Why are families choosing cremation?

Although there are several reasons why families are choosing cremation, the biggest determining factor is cost.  A cremation is significantly cheaper than a traditional burial.  No casket is required, embalming is not required, and cemetery plots, vaults and fees can be eliminated.

With many Americans struggling financially, a cremation can prove a much more affordable means of conducting a disposition.

Aside from this, there is a growing trend towards simpler funeral choices.  Many Baby Boomers are just opting for a simple ‘no-fuss’ cremation.

We are now a more transient and transplant nation than ever before, with families spread across states, and even the nation.  This means that the notion of a traditional burial place no longer has quite the same meaning, and families are not able to memorialize in the same way. Many feel that cremation allows them to memorialize in a different way.

Our attitudes towards religion and the environment are also shifting, and this has impacted on death care choices.

How do burial and cremation prices compare?

An average traditional funeral costs in the region of $10,000.  A cremation can cost between $1,000 to $3,500.  Direct cremation, the least expensive cremation option, can cost between $500 – $1,000.  So, there is a significant saving if you opt for cremation.  DFS Memorials providers all offer a low-cost direct cremation to their communities.

In many cities, burial space has become limited, and therefore burial plot prices have increased.  In New York, for example, a cemetery plot alone can cost $18,000.

There are funeral providers offering very simple burial services, and even natural burial, and these can prove an inexpensive alternative to a traditional burial.

Choosing cremation

Families conducting their own memorial services

Cremation changes how we can memorialize a loved one.  There does not have to be a rush to conduct funeral services in a timely fashion before burial.  A cremation can be conducted and a memorial service held later.  This enables the family to have more control and flexibility over making funeral arrangements.

Some families still choose to inter the cremation urn, but some are beginning to seek alternative memorial options, such as ash-scattering in a memorial garden or special place; having some cremated remains made into a keepsake; or simply keeping the urn close by at home.

What should you really know if you are considering a cremation?

There are a few important considerations to make, and these are generally governed by state funeral legislation as well.

  1. Cremation is a very final disposition of remains. It eliminates all traces of DNA and any future examination of remains.  For this reason, there is certain protocol about authorizing a cremation.
  2. A cremation can only proceed when the Medical Examiner or Coroner has approved the cremation and issued a cremation permit. This is also to ensure there is no cause or concern that a cremation should not proceed.
  3. A Cremation Authorization Form must be signed by all immediate legal next of kin for a cremation to be legally conducted. If there is a dispute between siblings, a funeral provider will not proceed with cremation.
  4. In some states, there is a mandatory wait period after death before a cremation can be conducted, even if all permits and paperwork is in order. This ranges from 24-48 hours.
  5. Generally, it can take several days for a cremation to go ahead and the cremated remains available for the family. This is the time-frame for completing all necessary legal documentation, and scheduling the cremation.
  6. There are very strict protocols for crematory operators to ensure that cremation is handled in a respectful, dignified and safe manner. Rigorous ID checks are maintained throughout the process.  Only one body can be cremated in a retort, and the retort must be completely cleared before the next cremation.  Reputable funeral homes and crematories follow these protocols to the letter.  However, as cremation and a decline in profits, has hit the funeral industry there have been funeral homes cutting corners to meet their loss of income/profit.  It is always wise to select a trusted provider.  Although there are ‘budget’ cremation providers out there….cheapest is not always best!

If you still have questions about whether cremation is for you or your family, talk to your local funeral home or DFS Memorials cremation provider.  They will be happy to answer any questions you have.

Trends in cremation service