Junk Food Giants Fall as Millennials Turn on Sugar

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Fast food companies like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Pepsi are seeing their sales reach an all-time low, as they are consistently failing to capture the millennial market, especially in the bracket of 18-24 year olds. It seems their decades long reign over the world is finally coming to an end, as millennials are becoming informed and concerned about their consumption habits and how it influences their health.

Millennials are seeing their parents and grandparents suffering a plethora of diseases which have been linked to obesity, and with information more freely available than ever, a generation is acting, voting with their dollars, and opting for less processed whole foods which do not have added refined sugar.

Among numerous documentaries like 'Food Matters' and 'Hungry for Change', best-selling novels such as 'I Quit Sugar' and 'Sweet Poison' have educated millennials and turned them towards whole foods and away from the processed packaged goods that make up the majority of a standard supermarket.

#Cleaneating has become one of the most popular hashtags on Instagram with over 35.1m posts at the time of writing this. The search pulls up nothing but flat-lays of healthy meals and recipes, gym selfies and fresh “lifestyle” shots. So even though not all millennials are aware of the research, it has become trendy and normal to eat clean and talk about it on social media.

“There is definitely a trend emerging of young people electing to lead a healthier lifestyle, more so than in our parent’s generation,” says millennial, and self-confessed foodie, Amanda on the I Quit Sugar blog. “There are many incredible, inspirational health advocates on social media showing how easy and beneficial it is to lead a healthy lifestyle,” Amanda says. “Young people want to share their healthy choices.” I Quit Sugar, a New York Times Bestseller by Australian author Sarah Wilson, started as a personal account of Sarah’s journey to cutting sugar from her diet entirely, and has become an online resource and community of people taking the challenge of quitting sugar in 8 weeks.

But as with any agile brand, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and co. are adjusting to suit the demands of millennial consumers and bringing in zero sugar products. Kasia Kossakowska and Tom Pattinson for BeverageDaily.com have been researching the topic for 5 years. “People are increasingly worried about their wellness. Previously held anxieties around air pollution and environmental issues are fast becoming global panics. They want products to make them healthier.” So on top of removing nasties like refined sugar from products, “brands have started adding functional benefits to drinks not previously associated with health.” For example, drinks with added vitamins and “weight-loss” teas have become popular.

Kasia and Tom have concluded that “no matter how chaotic the world appears to be, the most agile and adaptive brands continue to find ways to grow.” And we will continue to watch how millennials shape entire industries.

Mark MacSmith