Millennials Are Slicing The American Cheese Industry Apart

KMarko, I see you as more of a fancy Roquefort or Taleggio guy because I can’t imagine an Instagram photo involving you & a Kraft single.

In fact, I think you’re one of those American cheese killing millennials the news is talking about. But no hard feelings, I still think you’re a Gouda guy. (Sorry.)

From Bloomberg News:

One by one, America’s food outlets are abandoning the century-old American staple. In many cases, they’re replacing it with fancier cheeses.

Wendy’s is offering asiago. A&W’s Canada locations switched to real cheddar. McDonald’s is selling the Big Mac’s soft, orange square of American cheese with a version that doesn’t contain artificial preservatives. Cracker Barrel ditched its old-fashioned grilled cheese. So did Panera Bread, replacing American with a four-cheese combo of fontina, cheddar, monteau and smoked gouda. The result: higher sales.

American (cheese) culture is at a crossroads. The product, made famous by the greatest generation, devoured by boomers on the go and touted as the basis for macaroni and cheese, the well-documented love object of Gen X, has met its match with millennials demanding nourishment from ingredients that are both recognizable and pronounceable.

As a millennial (someone born 1981 – 1996ish) I feel out of the loop because I’ve been eating ‘American cheese’ my whole life and until today have never given any thought to what’s actually in there. Which turns out is not much actual cheese (coagulated milk proteins)… Those individually wrapped slices I like to eat by the stack when I get home from the bars? Typically less than 50% real cheese. The rest tends to be preservatives, additives for that golden color, & other ingredients.

I love it on my pork roll, I love it with tomato soup in the winter, I love it fresh out of the plastic at 2am and I have no plans of slowing down. But my millennial counterparts have been and as they lean towards purer products, prices have been dropping across the board. It’s now less than $4 per pound for the first time since 2011. Bad news for the American cheese industry, great news for me.