Food & Drink

Please Stop Freaking Out About Millennials Not Eating Cereal

Empty Cereal Bowl
Kevin Alexander/Thrillist

This was the week the Internet lost its shit over cereal. It all started with the NY Times, when Kim Severson wrote about cereal brands' flagging sales and what they were trying to do about it. The particular portion of the story that made everyone tear their eyeballs out and launch them at the moon taped to bottle rockets involved a survey which said 40% of millennials thought"“cereal was an inconvenient breakfast choice because they had to clean up after eating it."  

The Washington Post ran with that, bemoaning the plight of an America hung up on convenience and flooded with 20-somethings in "Feel the Bern" tank tops who've never done chores, and thus can’t even wash out a damn bowl. One of said bowl-hating millennials at BuzzFeed used many GIFs and inexplicable changes in font size to double down on how much he hates cereal (mostly due to the complicated nature of purchasing milk), but then two OTHER BuzzFeed staffers wrote a PRO-cereal piece using pictures of clocks with the numbers replaced by cereal bowls and people taking skin-nurturing cereal baths. 

In The Arizona Republic, a Gen X editor and her millennial co-worker did a Q&A (sample: "I have a confession to make. I'm a millennial and I don't eat cereal. At least not regularly for breakfast.") that culminates in a six-question reader poll aimed at "adults." My point is: the debate surrounding millennials not wanting to clean up cereal spread uncontrollably, like that disease in the movie where Cuba Gooding, Jr. shoots a monkey. 

I, too, have felt the need to weigh in on this non-mall-related Hot Topic. You see, at 34, I sit in the DMZ between the millennial and Gen X generations. I’m also strenuously pro-cereal. I eat three to four bowls a day. I have nine boxes in my house right now. I did a taste-test and ranked 88 of them. I ordered diapers for my kid, and in that box, Amazon felt compelled to include a family-size box of Reese;s cereal, possibly as a mistake but definitely not as a mistake. Here it is, with a box of an extremely healthy cereal I can't bring myself to eat next to it for comparison:

Reese's Puffs
Kevin Alexander/Thrillist

Anyway, on our staff, we have a wildly talented millennial writer named Wil Fulton. Wil has done millennial things (used the Internet in Cuba, cut onions), and working with him is a joy in my life. Except when Wil weighed in with these ridiculous thoughts on cereal. My comments are italicized: 

Cereal isn't popular with millennials because:

WF: It's very expensive.

KA: Wait. What? You can buy a 28oz box of Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries on Walmart.com for $4.16 and that gives you 25 servings. That’s 17 cents per serving. Factor in milk, which comes to about 50 cents per serving, and you've got a 67-cent breakfast each day, for an entire month. Also, Amazon gives away cereal for free! 

WF: It's very bad for you.

KA: So yes, it's true that a cup of Honey Smacks actually has more sugar than a Hostess Twinkie, but that's just the sugar cereals. There are hundreds of healthy cereal lines out now. Special K has a quinoa cereal. Wheaties only have 4g of sugar per serving PLUS you get a box that features a famous athlete, like long-track speed skater Joey Cheek! 

WF: Most adults never ate cereal as grown-ass people if they didn't have kids, and millennials are having kids way later than any other generation.

KA: I've read this many times and still don’t quite understand it. I guess the argument is you only really eat cereal as an adult if you have kids, and since millennials are too busy crashing Zipcars into EDM festivals to have children, they're not eating cereal. Since there's no way to logically refute an illogical statement, I will just move on. 

WF: People are skipping breakfast, anyway. 

KA: Fine. 

WF: They discontinued Waffle Crisp then brought it back but it wasn't the same. 

KA: Dammit, I also can't argue with this. 

As a serious cereal proponent, I could sit here and make my own version of cereal-numbered clocks, and speak to the intrinsic satisfaction one experiences when taking down ice-cold milk mixed with crunchy flakes. Or the glory of that last sip of sugar-laden post-cereal milk. I could speak to the time-bending nostalgia I experience when opening a box of Christmas Crunch, bringing me back to the time I found my grandfather swearing and drinking gin while trying to build my GI Joe Mobile Command Center on Christmas Eve as I came down for a late-night bowl. But the truth is, I kind of think this cereal crisis is a good thing. 

For one, there are too many damn cereals now. Each franchise (say, Special K) has 10 or so iterations, and even those have iterations. There are 16 types of Cheerios, dammit!! Do you think the market is that segmented that it calls for a Cheerios aimed at people who enjoy a very specific type of South American dessert (dulce de leche)? I think a culling of expansion excess is about time, frankly. 

Second, I honestly believe that everything could change if cereal would just look better in photos. Look at this one I took of the cereal I’m eating right now: 

Crispix Cereal
Kevin Alexander/Thrillist

See? Even when it's backed by sexy reclaimed wood, natural light, and I’ve somewhat haphazardly toggled with the color settings under the "Edit" function, it still doesn't look Instagram worthy. If cereal makers can tweak recipes to taste like South American sweets, I think they can make this shit more handsome, too.   

As for the millennials being unwilling to clean a damn bowl -- relax. First of all, 60% of them already don't mind washing the dish, and that's a majority. Also, while eating cereal and procrastinating, I started reading through old laments about Gen Xers from the '90s and it was the same damn shit -- how they were so selfish and lazy and fundamentally different from the generations before that the world would forever be altered. The older generations criticize the scary, younger, newer generations, then predict apocalypse.

You can bet that in 20 years, millennials will be griping about how the Drone Generation is too lazy to care when their AI robot toys use their capacity for perfect recall and ability to use recursive self-improvement to create super intelligence, thus making our brains obsolete and forcing us to all work in Mars labor camps. This is just the cycle we live in, friends.  

In an effort to squash any issues, I told my young millennial friend Wil about how to save money on cereal by ordering it off the Internet. He politely thanked me for providing him with the option, but admitted he would likely not use it, saying, "and deal with all that cumbersome packaging/credit card input? Nah. I’m too lazy."

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Kevin Alexander is Thrillist’s national writer-at-large. Embrace his cereal haikus: @KAlexander03