The *Actual* Reasons Millennials Aren't Buying Canned Tuna

First of all, it's gross.

A photo of repeating tuna cans on a red background, pop art style

(Photo: iStock)

Another day, another dollar millennials aren’t spending on some inane item. Our generation has allegedly destroyed everything from the Canadian tourism industry to bars of soap—and we show no signs of slowing down. Our latest victim? The insidious fish masquerading as the chicken of the sea. That’s right. Millennials are apparently taking out tuna.

Jessica Simpson eating canned tuna and saying "I know it's tuna...but it says chicken"

(Photo: Giphy)

The Wall Street Journal broke the story of this atrocity, reporting that the consumption of packaged fish in the U.S. plummeted by more than 40% over the last three decades, according to the Department of Agriculture. The article cites millennials’ aversion to cans as the reason for the decline.

“In a country focused on convenience, canned tuna isn’t cutting it with consumers. Many can’t be bothered to open and drain the cans, or fetch utensils and dishes to eat the tuna,” wrote WSJ’s Jesse Newman and Annie Gasparro. Andy Mecs, vice president of marketing and innovation for the StarKist tuna brand, took things one step further. “A lot of millennials don’t even own can openers,” he told the WSJ—which, was *not* well received by some social media users.

As a millennial myself, I am tired of being blamed for taking down industries when most of the people in my generation cannot even find secure jobs. In fact, the Conference Board of Canada found that one in five young Canadians work part-time or underemployed—so TBH, canned tuna doesn’t even rank on our list of priorities. That said, there are legit reasons why millennials (and other generations) may be reconsidering tuna, beyond what is—or is not—in our utensil drawer.

We’re worried about the dolphins

According to the New York Times, images of tuna fisherman harming dolphins prompted young people to boycott tuna in the late 1980s. Yellowfin tuna likes to hang around dolphins (scientists don’t know why), so fishermen would supposedly look for schools of dolphin, and just catching a whole host of ocean life together in one net. Although the U.S. passed a law in 1990 to protect dolphins from net-fishing, prompting dolphin-safe labels, and subsequent additional regulations have been applied, it remains a concern for many consumers.

Mercury in the oceans is still a question

In the 2000s, American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and numerous other organizations issued warnings about mercury levels in fish. Health Canada hasn’t issued a warning of this kind since 2002, but Oceana also notes that mercury levels can vary based on the species of tuna—but Canadian consumers aren’t really given the info they need to make safe tuna purchases.

We’re spending our $$$ on better food

You guys, we have Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes, Ritual and endless meal prep services on our phones. Why would we buy canned tuna when authentic ramen is one tap away? An American study done by the Food Institute found that millennials like to dine out…a lot. According to the 2014 study, millennials spend just under half of their food dollars restaurants and prepared foods—because home ownership is a distant dream, might as well have a nice dinner, right?

You can’t Instagram a tuna sandwich

Have you ever tried to put a can of tuna on Instagram, or a tuna sandwich? It’s nearly guaranteed that you will get zero likes. You might even lose followers. It may be the chicken of the sea, but tuna is far from the avocado of Instagram. And if you don’t think that matters, look no further than the humble radish—a root vegetable that looks so chic on IG that it saw a boost in sales in the U.K.

It’s honestly gross AF

See above. In response to the WSJ article, social media users pointed out that, quite honestly, canned tuna is not that tasty. Mouths don’t water when you crack open a metal can filled with chopped up fish in some kind of oil? It gets all over your counter and the smell will *never* leave.


More millennials are vegetarians

Vegetarians and vegans make up at least 10% of Canada’s population, according to a Dalhousie University study from this year. That’s roughly 3 million Canadians who have removed meat and fish from their diet—and, according to the study, most of the 2.3 million vegetarians are under the age of 35. So tuna is definitely NOT on their shopping list.

You can’t eat tuna in an open office

Who wants to be that co-worker who opens a can of tuna for a casual desk lunch? No. One.

Being unfairly blamed for the decline in an industry that hasn’t really evolved in decades feels wholly unfair. Especially since a report from the U.S. Federal Reserve noted that overall, “millennials do not appear to have preferences for consumption that differ significantly from those of earlier generations.” So in short, the canned tuna industry may be sinking, but don’t try and take millennials—or our use of kitchen gadgets—down with it.


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