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Millennials Use Social Influence to Kill American Cheese

There are many things that millennials use their social influence to change – and apparently killing American cheese is one of them. Grilled cheese lovers everywhere should take note, as should brands who may unwittingly fall out of fashion with this influential crowd!

Don’t Get Cheesy

It’s nothing new to note the increasingly loud sustainability conversations online:

increasingly loud sustainability conversations online

People “care about” the environment in increasing numbers, and “work” to make things better for generations that follow:

people care about many things, including processed food which contributes to killing american cheese

And part of that concern includes a focus on less processed foods. And the conversation online these days is downright scandalous, sending food concerns skyrocketing:

the conversation online these days is downright scandalous, sending food concerns skyrocketing

But what does any of this have to do with American cheese? Well, it doesn’t, not directly, of course. American cheese is delicious and there’s nothing that melts just like it. Grilled cheese lovers everywhere agree. But delicious gooey lunches are facing extinction, and many are blaming Millennials for it.

Conversation online about it the cheese is decidedly torn, with most who talk about it, loving it:

Conversation online about it the cheese is decidedly torn

But that “most” is made up of older men, who may be indexing around cheese, but aren’t indexing as highly about sustainability as their younger, predominantly female climate counterparts . . .

cheese demographics are mostly older males

Millennials just aren’t feeling it when it comes to processed foods, so they’re not buying it. And they’re expressing their displeasure with it web-wide, as they go. They’re a very vocal group online and their influence has the power to make or break trends – and markets.

Millennials expressing expressing their displeasure with processed foods and cheese webwide

This Isn’t Their First/Last Victim

Though it’s unfair to fault them for being more discerning, ethical consumers, they have been accused of killing a big bunch of things, including “napkinsmotorcycleshomeownership marriage and, [oddly enough] – divorce.” The food category has been the hardest hit though. Beyond American cheese, there’s “also beercereal, and canned tuna among others.”

What industry could be next?

First, it’s important to understand that Millennials – and some theorists – do not accept the view that this generation is a category killer. Maybe they’re more of a category creator?

“I don’t like to think of it as millennials are killing a thing,“ said Beth Bloom, market research firm Mintel’s associate director of U.S. food and drink. “It’s really just their preferences are shifting. Some subcategories that don’t deliver on those preferences might not be performing as well.”

Manuel Quiros, 32, who lives in Detroit said he thinks it is “kind of ridiculous” to say millennials are killing things. “We just don’t want to pay for things that aren’t good that maybe our parents like other generations didn’t find or didn’t know,” he said. 

But what can brands do, regardless, to stay on the good side of these shoppers? By identifying troubling trends, and stay ahead of them. And also, by spotting opportunities early and pivoting to capture there.

Fortunately, AI Studio’s automated theme discovery makes mincemeat of the struggle most brands face when surfacing unknown insight.

Automated Theme Discovery Helps Brands Pivot

If we follow the sustainability conversation, we see some trends around food, of course. And “major food brands across categories are studying millennials’ eating habits and trying to meet their needs by diversifying product offerings.”

From automatically surfaced, semantically similar terms captured by NetBase’s advanced AI, we see additional themes emerge:

automatically surfaced, semantically similar terms captured by NetBase’s advanced AI

As part of brands’ diversification efforts, they’ll want to watch for triggering events around “waste management” and other “pollutants.” They’ll also need to stay on top of “new technologies” that could reduce “greenhouse gas emissions” – and speak to these and other relevant terms in their marketing.

It’s important to note, that it’s not just about organically grown produce, but also ethical concerns around who is harvesting the food and how well (or not) they’re treated. “Workers’ rights” and ensuring everyone has “quality time” to live come in to play here:

ethical concerns in sustainability conversation

But food is far from the only area seeking to accommodate these earth-conscious consumers. Fashion is another area where a huge shift is taking place.

Fashion is another area where a huge sustainability shift is taking place

And cosmetics as well. Brands offering cruelty-free products are capturing larger market share and will likely continue to.

Brands offering cruelty-free products are capturing larger market share

It can really apply to any industry as waste management, for example, is something that happens with every consumable. So it’s something Millennials may eventually come to your category to explore – and direct their dollars to a competitor who has been listening all along and made changes ahead of their arrival.

sound bites surfaced with AI Studio around sustainability

And don’t worry, if they don’t come for you – Gen Z will. And they’re a generation of firebrands sets to disrupt categories in ways that will make Millennials appear mild.

Be sure to stay ahead of the curve with social listening. Reach out and we’ll show you how to monitor your category to do just that!