Why Cereal Just Doesn't Do It Anymore for Millennials

CC BY 2.0. Minato

We've outgrown the cereal marketers, in knowledge and in taste. What once appealed no longer satisfies us for a number of reasons.

There was a time when Millennials loved breakfast cereal, and that was when we were small. It was the perfect combination of sugar, crunch, and cold milk, and it was easy for little hands to prepare while parents slept in on weekend mornings – our first fond memories of culinary independence. The arrangement of boxes on the dining table made a cozy, private fort in which to eat one’s cereal in peace while examining the pictures and indecipherable ingredient lists.

Cereal, however, has lost its appeal in recent years. Millennials are no longer racing to the cereal aisle, despite now being free to buy whatever garishly colorful box they wish. According to Mintel, a global market research company, sales declined from $13.9 billion in 2000 to $10 billion in 2015 (via New York Times).

So what’s going on?

On one hand, we’ve got people up in arms over the fact that Mintel’s report also revealed that 40 percent of Millennials surveyed claimed cereal was “an inconvenient breakfast choice because they had to clean up after eating it” – as in, they’d rather throw something in the garbage than wash a bowl and spoon. Yes, that’s pathetically lazy and embarrassing, but surely there’s more wrong with cereal than just that.

On the other hand, we’ve got a product that just doesn’t cut it anymore as people become more aware of the importance of good nutrition. I don’t buy cereal (other than the occasional box of Cheerios for my infant to practice picking up), nor do I feed it to my kids, and it’s not because I’m too lazy to wash dishes. No, there are other reasons why cereal has fallen off my radar while grocery shopping, some of which are listed in Kaitlin Flannery’s article, “This Is Why Millennials Actually Don’t Eat Cereal,” and to which I can relate:

First, it’s not healthy enough.

It’s loaded with sugar, it’s highly processed, it contains ingredients I don’t recognize. It doesn’t fill me or my kids up sufficiently. Inevitably, after eating a bowl of cereal, we’re starving an hour later. It’s better just to eat a bowl of stick-to-your-ribs oatmeal that will carry us through the morning much longer.

Second, it’s expensive.

For the big family-sized boxes, it can cost upwards of $8-10 for something that tastes like puffed air and sawdust. When that aforementioned box of Cheerios comes home for baby, it disappears in a flash because the older siblings can’t keep their hands off it. To my frugal mind, that $8 could go a lot further toward filling their tummies in the form of oatmeal, fruit, yogurt, or whole wheat bread.

Third, it has too much packaging.

My heart breaks a little bit every time I pull out a finished plastic bag, shake the remaining crumbs into the compost, and cram the bag into the garbage can. The local recycling facility won’t take it, so it goes to landfill. I prefer my zero-waste breakfast options like granola (made from local oats in paper bags and maple syrup), yogurt (homemade in reusable glass jars), buttermilk pancakes, and my loaves of slow-rise bread transformed into toast with jam made from local berries picked straight into my own reusable containers.

Finally, cereal is just plain boring.

Honestly, it takes minimal effort and planning to have a far more delicious breakfast than cold cereal – and I think that’s what a lot of Millennials are discovering. (Although, in order to enjoy some of those healthier, tastier options, some of my fellow Millennials will have to get their hands wet in the sink occasionally, which may be slightly traumatizing.)