Millennials Now Blamed for Demise of Canned Tuna

Supposedly because it’s hard to open and smells.

Here’s a new item to add to the ever-growing list of Things Millennials Killed: canned tuna.

So declared the Wall Street Journal in an article that ran online under the grimly provocative headline, “The Trouble With Tuna: ‘A Lot of Millennials Don’t Even Own Can Openers.’”

“Per capita consumption of canned tuna has dropped 42% in the three decades through 2016, according to the latest data available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” the Journal noted. “And the downturn has continued, with sales of the fish slumping 4% by volume from 2013 to October 2018, data from market-research firm IRI show.”

And yeah, apparently millennials are to blame because they are too lazy or ill equipped to open and drain the cans. (The Washington Post took issue with this rationale.) Other potential factors: Millennials may be mindful of overfishing or fearful of mercury levels. Canned tuna is not perceived as fresh and exciting and perhaps a bit catfood-like. And also the stuff smells.

“Just 32% of consumers aged 18 to 34 recently bought canned fish or shellfish, compared with 45% of those 55 years old and older, according to market-research firm Mintel,” the Journal reported.

The slumping market has prompted the big three canned-tuna companies – StarKist, Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea – try to reposition tuna in a way that might appeal to the avocado-toast set: They’re selling tuna in easy-open pouches, touting trendy new flavors Sriracha and Gochujang, even offering snack kits that come with a utensil or fit conveniently into car cupholders.

“In order to bring excitement back to the category, we have to be more creative,” Jan Tharp, Bumble Bee’s interim chief executive officer, told the Journal.

Perhaps tuna innovators should consider a tongue-in-cheek suggestion tweeted by BuzzFeed News opinion editor Tom Gara: “There's only one way to get millennials eating tuna again: it needs to be in a bright white unmarked can with a single blue stripe running across the middle, sold only via online subscription for $5 a month at http://thisistuna.com , which is heavily advertised on podcasts.”

Apart from the fact that, as one commenter pointed out, thisistuna is a “legit URL for an ad agency,” Gara is probably onto something here. Have at it, Charlie the Tuna.

Photo: iStock

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