Will Millennials Be Cereal Killers?

3 min read

War is being waged on just about everything these days: on drugs, on women, on terror. However, while all of these topics are exceedingly important (save for Starbucks’ unintentional War on Christmas, that was downright stupid), I’m here to discuss a war near and dear to my heart—or rather, my stomach. I’m talking about the senseless war my fellow millennials have waged on cereal.

It’s an uncommon day when I refer to myself as an expert on any topic, but when it comes to cereal, I am an expert in every sense of the word. According to MyFitnessPal, I’ve eaten cereal at least once a day for more than 500 consecutive days. My pantry is always stocked with milk—nonfat, because I’m not a whole milk-slugging monster—and an impressive array of cereals, all of which I consider delicacies. So naturally, when I read The New York Times’ report on declining cereal sales, I was disturbed, hurt, and distraught.

If you haven’t heard, cereal sales are sagging across the board due to millennials’ interest in breakfast options like sandwiches, yogurt, and smoothies, all of which hold the appeal of “less clean-up.” Seriously. Once I overcame my disappointment in my generation’s unwillingness to rinse a bowl and spoon, my inner marketer took hold.

Are cereal producers in need of an industry-wide brand repositioning? Perhaps. It’s worked for struggling food industries in the past—most recently, prunes. Ask anyone what come to mind when they think of prunes and they’ll immediately say old people and incontinence. Marketing a food so closely tied to octogenarians’ bowel movements is an uphill battle. So, instead of climbing, the California Prune Board (CPB) dubbed their product with a new, trendy name designed to appeal to women ages 35 to 50: dried plums.

In the years since the industry’s FDA-approved brand repositioning in 2000, the dried plum industry has been anything but stagnant. Plum growers have experienced an increased demand for their produce for several consecutive years, and the price-per-pound of their product has steadily risen. Better yet, the dried prune industry has unveiled new packaging options, including single packs that require no clean-up (perhaps to appeal to millennials who refuse to use dish soap and sponges).

Instead of letting their relationship with millennials go stale, General Mills, Kellogg’s, and the like should court my generation by appealing to their interests: an emphasis on healthy whole grains, gluten-free cereal that doesn’t taste like the cardboard it’s packaged in (or include the word “puffs” in its name), and investing in easy, on-the-go, eco-friendly packaging. Selling boxes of Lucky Charms comprised solely of marshmallows wouldn’t hurt either, but the aforementioned suggestions are a good place to start.

If cereal manufacturers want to keep their delicious flakes, clusters, and Os in our mouths and hearts, they’ve got to draft a strategy and successfully implement it quickly. General Mills, Kellogg’s, Post: we’re accepting clients. Get in touch.