The running list of all the things millennials have "killed" just got longer and more ridiculous. Now, it seems, an entire generation is to blame for the declining market for American cheese, according to Bloomberg News. Though many of us grew up reaching into the fridge to pull out a plastic-wrapped square of orange-y goodness any time we were hungry, apparently, we're not turning to that processed staple anymore.
U.S. sales of cheeses from brands like Kraft and Velveeta are projected to drop 1.6% this year, the fourth straight year of this decline, Bloomberg says. Meanwhile, all sorts of food chains are swapping out the melty old standard for more gourmet-sounding cheeses like Asiago, fontina, and... cheddar?
As tempting as it apparently is to blame us, we see no facts backing up the claim that it's millennials who are to blame for the death of American cheese. It seems more likely that everyone — including Boomers and Gen-Xers, and almost certainly the finicky, organic-raised children of Gen Z — is done with the product. And to be clear, we are just talking about the super-processed version here, because cheddar by the block (instead of the barrels used to make Kraft, etc.) is doing just fine. Perhaps the real culprit is American cheese itself, for being so darn bland and full of weird chemicals. Someone showed the people of America what real cheese tastes like, and now we (understandably!) want that on our burgers and sandwiches.
It's also worth noting that this shift has little to do with the country suddenly becoming vegan or otherwise health-conscious. According to CheeseReporter.com, cheese consumption in the U.S. reached a record high in 2017, at 37.23 lbs per person. We eat on average 7.44 lbs more per person now than Americans did in 2000. If you look further at these numbers, we're actually eating more of what the site calls "American-type cheese" than we did in 1980: Per-capita consumption then was 9.62 pounds, compared to 15.06 last year. If sales of Kraft and Velveeta are indeed going down, there are other "American-type" cheeses taking their place and then some.
The Bloomberg story actually agrees with that, pointing out that the number of cheese factories in the U.S. has increased by 40% since 2000, mostly made up of smaller, specialty manufacturers. So, to recap: Cheese is getting more delicious and also small businesses are growing. But somehow, this is a problem and it's all our fault.