American Cheese Is the Latest Victim of Millennial Murder (and That’s Okay)
Millennials: do we have any shame? At this fragile point in United States history, our generation has been destroying the fabric of this country, industry by industry. One example is real estate: sales have been declining ever since millennials became adults and remained unmarried, diamond-less, and baby-free. It’s completely our fault, too: never mind all that research on predatory loans, insurance denials, and being exploited at work.
Millennials Blamed for the Demise of American Cheese
Bloomberg reports that our latest victim is the processed-cheese industry. (Et tu, American cheese?) On October 10, 2018, journalists Lydia Mulvany and Leslie Patton find that “one by one, America’s food outlets,” like Wendy’s and Panera “are abandoning the century-old American staple. In many cases, they’re replacing it with fancier cheeses” such as asiago, fontina, butterkäse, and other un-American sounding cheeses.
Sales of processed cheese “are projected to drop 1.6 percent this year, the fourth-straight year of declines” in American households in addition to restaurants opting for actual cheese (since it should be noted that “American cheese” is technically not cheese but a “processed cheese product” made from cheddar cheese, colby cheese and at least ten other ingredients including ones no one but STEM majors can pronounce).
Still, this cause for concern comes with the fact that the processed-cheese industry is projected to make $2.77 billion in retail sales this year, according to Euromonitor. So hopefully their parent’s basement is available for them to move into real soon.
But Is This Really Just a Fad?
What is there to make of the possibly permanent decline of a 100-year old food innovation? First, it should be noted that a few restaurants changing a part of their menu items so people will buy the same sandwich again is a sales tactic as old as time and also just part of trend culture. As soon as consumers start disliking the sharpness of asiago, outlets will put a fruitier cheese on their sandwiches like brie. (Remember when brie was on everything? I miss that.) They may even return to American cheese, who knows?
Also McDonald’s, America’s own international burger juggernaut, studied the market but stuck with American cheese, only altering their own cheese recipe slightly to remove artificial preservatives.
Part of the reason millennials aren’t married to American cheese is because of the health factor, and McDonald’s realized a “healthier” American cheese would likely be embraced by my millennial brothers and sisters. Spending more money to create a new cheese for their consumers shows McDonald’s deep desire to remain with American cheese in the long run, since a Big Mac with any other kind of cheese would be burger blasphemy.
The Death of American Cheese Really Isn’t a Bad Thing
But if American cheese is really on the way out, dare I say this: Is that a bad thing? It’s no longer the budget-friendly option it once was. Processed cheese products became popular because of their long shelf lives (up to ten months), a giant selling point to Americans during the Depression. Households could save money because they never really had to throw a spoiled batch out. As we know now, that’s because of the scary things that were preserving it.
My family isn’t Depression-era destitute, but we like to save on every single penny we spend at the grocery store, and we buy cheddar. On average, it’s just as inexpensive as American cheese and, well, it tastes better. Do we really need to hold on to American cheese just because of tradition?
Calf’s foot jelly or savory gelatin molds aren’t on dinner menus anymore. We Americans no longer munch on boiled eel or sow’s brain. Let’s add cheesy nutmeg chicken pancakes and banana ham hollandaise to the list since those contain our struggling American cheese. Should we start eating those again, too? If so, I’ll just be drinking wine at your place for dinner.