The perception of the millennial generation as exceptionally narcissistic, immature, and disengaged from society has fueled a thousand hot takes on the industries they're “killing." Here's what's really going on.
Every few weeks, another story about the dreaded generation surfaces: millennials are killing casual dining; millennials are killing breakfast cereal; millennials are killing home ownership.
Pundits aren’t shy about diagnosing what’s causing these deaths, either.
Also known as Gen Y, millennials are often painted as screen addicts who can’t eat a meal without sharing it on Instagram — which is why they won’t sit down for a meal at Applebee’s. They’re commitment-phobes who balk at the idea of being tied down, and that’s why home ownership rates are down.
It’s true that millennials’ entry into their prime earning years has coincided with the decline of industries like luxury goods, chain restaurants, department stores, and many others.
But in most cases, the real story is more complex than catchy headlines can really do justice.
Millennials aren’t shunning luxury goods; they’re just renting them instead of buying. They’re not abandoning gyms; they’re opting into studio classes and alternatives like Peloton.
And they’re not killing casual dining. In fact, millennials eat out more often and spend more on restaurants than any other generation.
In this report, we explore 12 key consumer areas that millennials have been accused of “killing” — and dig into the real story behind the clickbait headlines.
Why the millennial generation is so different
The media caricature of millennials glosses over how changing consumption preferences are driven by complex factors — like millennials’ financial situation, the ethics they want their products to embody, and their greater focus on health.
Millennials are in debt. They earn less, hold fewer assets, and have less wealth than members of previous generations did when they were their age, according to the Fed. Many are burdened by student debt, as median incomes have failed to keep pace with the skyrocketing costs of four-year college programs.
While American paychecks have increased over the past few decades, the purchasing power of those paychecks has remained stagnant, according to a recent Pew study.
Managing money that doesn’t go as far — when it’s not tied up in debt payments — hugely affects how millennials budget and spend.
Millennials value spending their money ethically. Rather than valuing lower prices above all else, 73% of millennials are willing to pay more for products or services that are sustainable or help promote a positive impact on the world.
When it comes to investing, millennials are twice as likely to make sustainable investments compared to the average investor, with 75% reporting that they think their investment choices can influence climate change (as we discussed in our recent fintech trends report).
Millennials prioritize health and wellness. No generation has been more health-conscious than millennials, with 8 in 10 believing it is important to eat healthy and indulge only occasionally. Millennials are the generation most concerned with natural and ethical food products, and they account for more than half of organic food consumption.
As consumer preferences have changed, some companies have navigated the shifts gracefully while others have failed. But to interpret those failures as “deaths” at the hands of millennials is too easy. In virtually every case, the real cause is a textbook failure to adapt to changing conditions.
We take a closer look at the categories below.
Table of contents
- Casual dining
- Department stores
- Luxury goods
- Cable TV
- American cheese
- Canned tuna
The breakfast food that’s too “inconvenient” for millennials may actually just be too sugary
The $9B cereal industry is in trouble. Sales have declined by 17% over the last decade, and some cereal industry executives have put the blame on millennials.
In a highly publicized 2016 survey, Mintel found that 40% of millennials preferred not to eat cereal for breakfast because it takes too long to prepare and clean up.
The news that millennials were too lazy to eat cereal was catnip for many publications, eager to drive traffic for a their coverage of this controversial age group’s habits.
But a closer analysis of the data suggests that it is less that millennials are ditching cereal, and more that their relationship with it is shifting. In short, instead of seeing cereal as a breakfast staple, they’re consuming it as a snack.
The perception that millennials are averse to anything prep-intensive fits neatly into the narrative around other high-profile “millennial trends.”
For example, the rise of “athleisure” brands like Lululemon and Athleta has been attributed to millennials’ search for clothing options that let them easily transition from the yoga studio to the office. By this reading, cereal similarly doesn’t fit into the “on-the-go” millennial lifestyle.
Some cereal companies believe that the real problem they’re facing is one of increased choice. In the 1950s and 1960s, the biggest innovations in breakfast were Eggo Waffles and Pop-Tarts. Cereal was a reliable stand-by breakfast that thrived before public attitudes — especially among millennials — turned against sugar.
“Cereal used to be the only breakfast option, [but] there’s a lot more to choose from than there ever used to be,” says Andrew Shripka, Kellogg’s associate director of brand marketing.
Research shows that today, instead of eating a bowl of cereal for breakfast, many millennials are opting for quick-cooked hot grains, breakfast sandwiches, fruit-flavored smoothies, and yogurts. With less sugar, more protein, and more fiber, these options align better with millennial nutrition standards than sugary, processed cereals.
There is a bright spot for the cereal industry, however: 82% of millennials say they are likely to think of cereal as a great snack (far more than any other generation).
Savvy marketers at struggling cereal brands may be able to reverse their fortunes with the millennial set. Overhauling recipes to reduce sugar, embracing the shift from “part of this complete breakfast” to an appealing snack-time option, and finding ways to repackage cereal into more convenient grab-and-go formats may allow cereal brands to better compete with more portable options that millennials prefer.
The question that cereal brands should be asking is not, “How do we make millennials eat cereal for breakfast?” Instead, it’s “How can we make cereal a more appealing snack?”
2. Casual dining
Millennials eat out more than any other generation — they just don’t want to sit in booths
Casual-dining chains such as Ruby Tuesday, Olive Garden, and Applebees saw explosive growth throughout the 1980s and ’90s as a booming economy gave suburban families more discretionary income.
Then millennials came along and changed the rules, refusing to pony up for the “experience” of enjoying a booth at one of these restaurants — or at least, that’s what the media says.
But when you look closer at the changes happening in the space, it’s clear that this is less about extinction than it is about evolution. Millennials are trading one kind of restaurant for another that better matches their preferences and values.
Consumer spending at restaurants and other food vendors was at an inflation-adjusted annual rate of $605B in 2017, up 4% from $584B in 2015. But it’s true that these gains aren’t going to sit-down eateries like Olive Garden or Applebees. In 2017, the number of casual-dining locations among top chains shrank by 1.5%. Ruby Tuesday was one of the hardest hit, with a 15.2% decline in sales.
Research shows that millennials are instead flocking to higher-end eateries when they can afford it, and fast, healthy options when they can’t.
The growth in the dining sector is coming from fast casual chains like Panera Bread and Chipotle rather than sit-down restaurants.
Same-store sales across casual dining locations in the United States fell each quarter between Q4’15 and Q4’16. Source: Los Angeles Times
Fast casual eateries like Chipotle and Panera put more emphasis on healthy, organic, and even locally sourced ingredients, which align with millennial concerns about nutrition and sustainable consumption. These restaurants are easy grab-and-go options, appealing to millennials’ desire for efficiency.
By offering more dine-and-dash convenience, revising menus to highlight more health-conscious fare, and even reimagining spaces to better align with contemporary design sensibilities, former dining heavyweights could reclaim some of their market share from the fast casual invaders.
Some of these adjustments are already underway. Casual-dining restaurants are changing up their decor, switching to small plates, and adding meatless burgers, all in an effort to win the approval of millennials. They seem to be making progress, with small but significant sales growth in the sector after years of losses.
3. Department stores
Millennials aren’t turning their backs on brick-and-mortar, but traditional departments stores are pricey and have limited selection
There’s no denying that traditional department stores are in turmoil. Department stores saw $230B in total sales in 1999. By 2016, that number had fallen to $155.5B.
Experts predict more than 1,000 department stores will die by 2023, and their overall share of the apparel category will plummet by 66%.
One powerful illustration of department store decline is Macy’s. Once a staple of the American shopping landscape, Macy’s announced in 2016 that it would be closing 100 stores. By the end of 2018, Macy’s stock had fallen by 6%, and it looks like more may be on the way if its fortunes don’t change.
Does the blame really lie with millennials and their fickle spending practices?
Millennials are 6.4% less likely than other generations to say they shop in department stores, according to a Deloitte survey. One popular explanation for this is that millennials are simply shopping less in physical locations in general, preferring to do their shopping online.
With their spending power hampered by student loan debt and other obligations, millennials simply have less disposable income to spend on clothes than previous generations. Fashion e-commerce provides massive selection and the convenience of direct-to-your-door delivery, so department stores have to give shoppers a pretty good reason to leave home to shop.
Still, 50% of millennials say they prefer going to physical store locations.
Not all in-store retailers have fallen out of favor with millennials the way department stores have. 70% of millennials say that they shop at off-price retailers like TJ Maxx and Marshalls. Between 2006 and 2015, off-price retail sales went from $18B to $35B — a jump of 94%.
Millennials also favor fast-fashion outlets like H&M and Zara, though these brands are increasingly coming under scrutiny due to their controversial labor practices.
“Mass merchants,” such as Amazon, Walmart, and Target have also seen an uptick in millennial spending due to their price sensitivity and convenience.
While major department store sales have dropped, lower-price chains such as TJ Maxx and Walmart have grown by leaps and bounds. Source: Fortune
If department stores can tap into millennials’ hunger for experience and convenience, and address their concerns about cost and ethical consumption, they could still draw younger shoppers back in.
4. Luxury goods
Millennials like luxury, but they rent more and buy less
It’s one of the most widespread and persistent “truths” about the millennial generation: millennials care about experiences instead of things, so they’re not buying sports cars and luxury watches.
The data supports that to some extent: 78% of millennials prefer to spend money on experiences instead of items. More than a quarter of millennials in the United States reported in a recent Deloitte survey that they had not made a luxury purchase over the last year.
But the truth is more complex. In reality, millennials like things and experiences. It’s just that recent evolutions in the “things” space have changed the way consumers think about luxury.
With the rise of mass manufacturing, luxury brands no longer carry the cachet they once did. Anyone with the means can get a designer bag at their local mall. Thanks to innovative new rental models, ownership is no longer essential.
Some luxury brands are hitting their stride with millennials. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, parent to the Vuitton suite of products and cosmetics chain Sephora, seems to have cracked the code, enticing millennials to embrace the luxury look at more affordable prices.
Tapestry, the maker of Coach bags, saw a 31% revenue spike in 2018 after acquiring millennial favorite Kate Spade. Gucci has also had some success with millennials — the company’s sales rose by 86% in 2017 following a targeted online “geek chic” campaign. Millennials accounted for approximately half of revenues.
For those who want designer clothing but are short on cash, startups have a solution: clothing rental. Services like Rent the Runway charge a monthly subscription fee to receive designer clothing in the mail, or let users rent pieces on a one-off basis. Growing at a rate of over 150% a year, Rent the Runway now has over 9M members and $100M+ in annual revenue.
The clothing rental model has struck a chord among millennials, likely because of its emphasis on flexibility. 17% of millennials have rented clothing or accessories, according to a recent survey by Price Intelligently.
Millennials share about events and experiences at higher rates than any other generation. Source: Eventbrite
Moving foward, the rental model could pose a challenge to traditional luxury brands unwilling to adapt. But, as the success of LVMH and Tapestry illustrate, there are opportunities for creative brands to claim their slice of the millennial pie.
5. Cable TV
Millennials are cutting the cord, but Gen X is more pro-streaming than any other generation
For many, the term “cord-cutters” — consumers who forego cable subscriptions in favor of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime — is synonymous with the millennial generation.
It’s also synonymous with the biggest threat to cable dominance the industry has ever seen.
As of 2018, 186.7M US adults have cable, satellite, or telco-provided pay TV. Still, cable providers have good reason to be alarmed: the number of pay-TV subscribers was down 3.8% in 2018, gathering speed after the 3.4% drop in 2017. An estimated 33M people canceled pay-TV service in 2018, a 32.8% increase over the previous year, according to eMarketer.
Streaming video services are attracting millions of viewers, posing a threat to cable. Source: eMarketer
The cord-cutting trend is real, and that millennials play a big role. Streaming is the primary medium 61% of people 18 — 29 years use to watch TV, and millennial households are consuming 4x more content on TV-connected devices than on traditional TVs.
The cord-cutting phenomenon coincides with millennials’ entry into the cable market. Early versions of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video arrived in the mid-to-late 2000s, just as millennials were graduating from high school or college and assuming responsibility for their own entertainment setups.
The average cable subscription is $85/month. Netflix subscriptions cost $8.99 – $15.99 a month, and Hulu subscriptions run $7.99 — $39.99 a month for streaming and live TV. This matters to a generation struggling to pay off student loans and find gainful employment.
Another factor may be customization. Unlike traditional cable’s pre-determined programming, streaming services give viewers the freedom to watch what they want, when they want — an appealing feature for a busy generation that values convenience and personalization.
However, millennials are not the only generation abandoning traditional cable. In fact, cord-cutting is even more prevalent among people aged 35 — 44. Twenty-three percent of households in that demographic have cut the cord, compared to 21% of millennials, according to Statista.
Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers are abandoning traditional cable subscriptions in numbers similar to or even greater than millennials. Source: Statista
The popularity of cord-cutting across generations suggests that the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of streaming services is not a “millennial trend,” but a structural disruption.
With all of these factors in mind, it’s no surprise that cable is struggling to survive. But individual networks are taking steps to align themselves with the new paradigm.
Premium cable channels like HBO and Showtime have introduced their own a la carte apps with pricing similar to Netflix or Hulu. If cable providers want to stem the tide of customers abandoning their services, they should consider doing the same. Comcast is experimenting with streaming as an add-on to regular cable, and others are likely to follow suit.
Solo exercise is out and group classes are in for the “lonely generation”
Once a staple of the fitness landscape in America, gym chains like Gold’s, 24 Hour Fitness, and LA Fitness are coming under threat. Industry insiders are pointing fingers at millennials.
Millennials and Gen Z make up only 35% of core health club members — which seems odd, given that data also suggests that these generations prioritize fitness more than their predecessors.
Millennials spend an average of $40 per month on fitness, compared to $25 for Gen Xers and $15 for baby boomers. But instead of traditional gym memberships, millennials’ tastes have driven a new trend toward fitness classes. They’re willing to pay as much as $35 a class for a personalized, high-intensity workout experience.
Overall, studio gyms make up the fastest growing segment of the fitness industry — they grew by 70% between 2012 and 2015, compared with 5% for traditional gyms.
One of the most prominent success stories in this space has been SoulCycle. With nearly $118M in revenue last year, the indoor cycling studio attracts legions of enthusiasts and celebrities, including Michelle Obama, Lena Dunham, and Jake Gyllenhaal. CrossFit, Orangetheory Fitness, and Pure Barre have also taken the workout world by storm.
ClassPass, which allowers users to book classes across multiple boutique gyms, raised $85M in 2018 with the aim of expanding globally. The company gives users the flexibility to try different types of exercise and customize their workout schedule without being tied to an annual contract.
The class-based model also centers heavily around community and socialization, which reflects millennials’ hunger for social contact. The Cigna U.S. Loneliness Index found that 45% of millennials experience loneliness — second only to their successors, Gen Z ( adults ages 18 — 22). Millennials may be turning to the fitness class model — at least in part — to make social connections.
Some traditional gyms are already taking steps to provide what millennials want in a fitness experience. Gold’s Gym, for example, has done away with annual fees and introduced a smart phone app.
As with the shifts in many other industries, the idea that millennials are actively “killing” gyms doesn’t hold up. Rather, millennials are willing to pay a premium for fitness experiences that fulfill their desire for flexibility and community — and the fitness industry should take note.
7. American cheese
Millennials aren’t turning against cheese, they’re avoiding fake, processed foods
Millennials are rejecting the processed American cheese in favor of natural alternatives.
US sales of processed cheese dropped 1.6% for 2018, the fourth straight year of declines. On the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the 500 lb. barrels of cheddar used to make American cheese are now trading at an unprecedented discount compared to 40 lb. blocks of cheddar.
Kraft Heinz, which produces classic American cheese products like Kraft Mac & Cheese and Kraft Singles, saw its stock price plunge more than 27% in February 2019.
Millennials are favoring more natural cheeses made by smaller producers. Specialty cheese is actually drove a 40% increase in US cheese factories between 2000 and 2017. Notably, sales of Annie’s mac and cheese — which features real cheese — doubled from around $200M to $400M between 2014 and 2017, following the brand’s acquisition by General Mills.
Processed cheese is losing out to natural cheese, a trend that will continue for the foreseeable future. Source: Allied Market Research
Fast-food outlets are jumping on the trend, switching to cheddar, Gouda, and other cheeses in their sandwiches and burgers. This includes Panera, Wendy’s, and even McDonald’s, which now sells Big Macs with a non-artificial cheese.
Craft beer is on the rise, while mass market beers are losing popularity
Mainstream beer brands like Coors, Budweiser, and Heineken are feeling the pinch, as shifts in millennial drinking behavior and preferences are changing consumption habits.
Goldman Sachs downgraded the ratings of Constellation Brands (Corona, Modello) and Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams, Angry Orchard) in 2017, based on research showing that millennials are drinking less beer than previous generations.
Beer lost 10% of its market share to wine and hard liquor between 2006 to 2016. A recent Harris poll found that a full 20% of young drinkers would be opting for wine during the Super Bowl, and another 20% for spirits. For a public event almost synonymous with beer guzzling, those numbers sent a shock through the American beer industry.
Super Bowl Sunday is synonymous with beer drinking, yet sales of spirits have surpassed it, with wine closing in. Source: Nielsen
Changing dietary preferences, such as gluten-free diets, may be partially responsible for the increased popularity of wine and spirits.
But young people are also drinking less overall. This trend presents a lot of opportunity for innovation.
Nonalcoholic drinks already make up 10% of those sold by AB InBev, and the company plans to double that in the next 6 years. Molson Coors, meanwhile, is experimenting with marijuana-infused beverages. Both companies are expanding into the small, but millennial-friendly kombucha space, with Molson Coors’ acquisition of Clearly Kombucha and AB InBev mulling a similar move.
When millennials do drink beer, they’re more likely to choose craft beers. They enjoy the range of flavors and styles of small-batch beers, and the community that’s grown up around them. Half of the respondents in a recent DSM survey of people under age 30 said they’d increased their craft beer consumption. Craft beer makers that emphasize sustainability do the best — unsurprising, since this is a top priority for many millennials.
Craft beer consumption in the US has grown by 500% in the last decade and quadrupled its market share. This shift toward smaller indie brewers hasn’t gone unnoticed by the big players in the beer industry.
In recent years, Anheuser-Busch has made a habit of buying up smaller craft labels, such as Goose Island Brewery in 2011. MillerCoors has taken a similar tack, acquiring popular craft names including Terrapin Beer Co in 2016.
The adoption of craft sensibilities appears to have served the beer giants well, with Anheuser-Busch reporting 16.8% combined global brand revenue growth in 2017.
The beer industry illustrates another instance in which the key to successfully navigating shifts in consumer preferences is not to change millennials — but to change with them.
9. Canned tuna
Millennials like tuna, but they prefer it outside of the can
The canned-tuna industry is in decline. Per capita consumption of canned tuna has dropped 42% over the past three decades, with sales of the fish slumping 4% by volume from 2013 — 2018.
Some say millennials are to blame.
There’s clear evidence that canned-tuna consumption among millennials is significantly lower than it is for other age groups. In a 2018 Mintel study, only 32% of 18- to 34-year-olds reported “recently” buying tuna, compared to 45% of those 55 years or older.
One theory that has become popular with tuna incumbents is that, as with cereal, canned tuna requires too much preparation for millennials. “A lot of millennials don’t even own can openers,” Andy Mecs, vice president of marketing and innovation for StarKist, told the Wall Street Journal.
But upon closer examination, this theory — which relies on a well-worn stereotype about lazy millennials — doesn’t hold up.
While sales of canned tuna are down, sales of fresh and frozen fish among millennials are up. Buying fresh fish in a store and eating it requires much more preparation than buying canned tuna.
Millennials are buying more fresh and frozen fish, while sales of canned tuna are tanking. Source: Wall StreetJournal
There’s no better illustration of the shift in millennial tuna-eating habits than poke. Once virtually unknown outside elite foodie circles, the native Hawaiian dish, which commonly features raw tuna, has seen explosive growth in popularity over the past several years.
More than 700 restaurants nationwide served poke in 2016, a 100% increase from 2014. Poke chain Pokeworks’ sales were up 105% in 2018, and competitor Aloha Poke Co. saw 46% year-over-year growth during the same period.
Poke bars embody everything millennials appreciate: a fast, fresh, protein-rich, relatively inexpensive meal served in a bowl. It can be made with salmon or other fish, but tuna is the most popular base.
Evidence suggests that some of canned tuna’s difficulties may be of the industry’s own making. One possible culprit: the well-publicized issue of dolphins getting caught in tuna nets, which clashes with millennials’ concern about sustainable food practices. Brands that advertise themselves as “dolphin safe,” such as Wild Planet and Safe Catch, are seeing major gains. Smaller fish brands now control 6.3% of the market, up from 3.7% in 2014.
To remain relevant to this generation of consumers, canned tuna brands will have to convince millennials that they are prioritizing ethical practices.
The rising micromobility movement is making motorcycles smaller and better suited for millennials
For the Easy Rider generation, motorcycles symbolized rebellion and freedom — but millennials aren’t buying it. To them, these expensive toys are a waste of cash.
Today, the average Harley rider is 50 years old, and millennials are only about 66% as likely to ride a motorcycle as Gen Xers and baby boomers.
By 2017, the growth rate for all motorcycle ownership had fallen from 3% — 5% on a normal basis down to 0%, according to an analysis by Alliance Bernstein. The waning trend is evident in stock performance as well: Shares of Harley-Davidson were down nearly 20% in 2018.
Millennials have the lowest motorcycle ridership of any generation. Source: CNBC
This popular Facebook post summarizes much of the media’s attitude about what’s driving the trend:
But analysts have pointed to the financial consequences of student loans and a tighter employment market for young adults in America. Today, millennials average twice as much student debt as the previous generation, making the prospect of paying $100+ a month on a motorcycle loan prohibitive for many.
“For young adults, especially, we’re finding there’s a financial pressure that might not have been there in the past,” says Heather Malenshek, Harley’s vice president for global marketing.
Electric scooters are much more eco-friendly than gas-guzzling motorcycles, which appeals to environmentally conscious millennial consumers. Scooters are also more conducive to urban riding, an important factor for a generation that is significantly more likely to live in a city than their parents.
Some players in the motorcycle industry are making efforts to adapt, shifting to smaller, lighter models. These bikes are easier for the first-time rider, more affordable, and better for urban riding — qualities tailor-made to appeal to millennial sensibilities. Between 2011 and 2016, sales of bikes with smaller engines increased by 11.8%, compared with a 7.4% gain for bigger, more powerful motorcycles.
In the motorcycle space, the secret to survival may be to think small.
The exclusive private country club is in decline for a generation more focused on inclusion
The golfing industry is struggling to survive. Yet again, it looks like millennials’ shifting priorities may be driving the sport into the rough — and the industry will need to evolve if it hopes to recover ground with younger consumers.
In the mid-1990s, 9M 18- to 34- year-olds were playing golf, compared to just 6M today. Overall, the sport has lost 5M participants in the United States since 2008, according to the National Golf Foundation.
Golfing among the 18-34 age group is down 36% since the early 1990s, and millennials are a much larger generation — signaling big trouble for the industry. Source: Golf2020
Golf has long been associated with exclusivity and luxury — something boomers and Gen Xers are more likely to value. Millennials, by comparison, value inclusiveness and accessibility, and are more likely to have a distaste for country club activities.
The sport also skews heavily male, and for a generation that has seen significant gains in female employment, whiffs of a “boys club” atmosphere are also likely to be a turn-off.
But some signs suggest there’s still a chance for the golf industry to change its fortunes with millennials. Newcomers to golf are 35% female, 26% non-Caucasian, and 70% under the age of 35.
The infrastructure is there to support an increase in golfers from underrepresented groups. 75% of all golf courses in the United States are on public land — a higher percentage than ever before in history. Because these courses are often owned by a municipality, they generally charge much lower greens fees than private country clubs.
Despite their Mad Men-era image, golf clubs could attract millennial interest with 21st century update. Millennials seek flexibility, opportunities to socialize, and amenities such as pools and fitness centers.
As with gyms, millennial golfers want customization and personalized service. Over half (51%) say they’d prefer a flexible membership combining a low social fee for full access to the club, with golf on a pay-per-use basis.
In short, golf will need to be more inclusive, affordable, and flexible if it wants to win over millennials and reverse the downward trend.
Millennials want to avoid added sugar, even in a ‘healthier’ source
According to Sun-Maid’s CEO Harry Overly, raisins have a millennial problem.
When the National Consumer Panel set out to ask 120,000 different American households about their snack and food consumption, they found that the consumers of raisins overwhelmingly tended to be from older generations.
Overly responded to this report by stating that raisins had “skipped a generation,” and that they “were no longer top of mind for millennials starting to have children.”
Sun-Maid’s new advertising has tried to fight that trend by tapping into millennials’ childhood nostalgia.
One problem for Sun-Maid and raisin farmers may be that health-conscious millennials are increasingly cutting sugar out of their diets. Raisins are high in sugar (up 72% by weight), and they don’t have as much Vitamin C level as fresh fruit.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that raisins have faced disaster and emerged intact. In the 1970s, the California Raisin Advisory Board (CalRAB) tried a variety of different kinds of advertising approaches to make raisins “cool.” Nothing worked until 1986, when the California Raisins made their big-screen debut in an instant classic commercial for the Sun-Maid corporation:
With a similarly savvy marketing move, it’s possible that raisin sellers could engineer a similar upswing with millennials. However, to do it, they’ll have to prove that they’ve heard millennials’ nutritional concerns.
Some raisin industry leaders are doing exactly that. Sun-Maid, for example, is unveiling a new line of sour raisin snacks made with natural fruit juice and no added sugar in watermelon and strawberry flavors.
Dried fruit snacks comprise a sizable chunk of the growing U.S. healthy snack market. Source: Grand View Research
Healthy snacks represented a $23B opportunity worldwide in 2018. By expanding their selection of natural fruit snacks, it appears Sun-Maid is working to claim a slice of that pie.
What’s really ‘killing’ these industries
Industries are not being threatened by millennials themselves. The threat comes from younger, more adaptive brands that have zeroed in on millennial habits and preferences, and are actively leveraging those insights to unlock huge market potential.
The message from millennials is clear: brands that prioritize convenience, personalization, and sustainability will thrive. Brands that continue to cling to outmoded ideas of consumer behavior will continue to struggle.
A number of industries have already figured this out. For example, the $3.7B wellness economy, which spans everything from fitness and athleisure to mental wellness and personal care, is thriving thanks to young consumers. Pet care, coffee, snacks, and live entertainment are also successfully connecting with millennial shoppers.
Industry disruption was happening long before millennials came along, and it will continue long after. The brands that manage to survive changes in consumer preferences are the ones that listen, adapt, and realize that shifting markets are not a threat, but an opportunity for creative transformation.