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3 attempts by food companies to court millennials
Add a jalapeno, and they'll come running, right?
Millennials: Just looking for a bread they can identify with.
Millennials: Just looking for a bread they can identify with. (Facebook/Wendy's)
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IME and The Boston Globe may think millennials are lazy and entitled, but food companies are scrambling to win over this key demographic — the 20-to-30-somethings who now make up about 25 percent of the population.

The problem is that millennials are tricky to pin down. They're diverse, finicky, often low on funds, and famously devoid of brand loyalty. And for such a supposedly lazy group, they certainly seem to be on the go, preferring to grab lunch from a food truck over sitting down at a restaurant.

Here, three ways Big Food is trying to court this slippery bunch.

Bagging it:
Unlike previous generations that spruced up boring recipes with a little mushroom soup, millennials seem especially adverse to cans. Instead, they prefer to eat produce, vegetables, soup, and other foods in their freshest forms — a trend that Campbell's is trying to get hip to.

To coax millennials, the soup maker last year released a line of soup in plastic pouches, covered in funky handwriting and black-and-white photos of young people. They also started putting dinner sauces in black packages "meant to conjure the blackboard menus at cafes," says the AP.

The company hasn't specified how much of its soup is sold in bags, but CFO Craig Owens told the AP it's "not a very significant portion."

Making fancy buns:
Millennials are famously picky about their carbs. While their baby boomer parents slapped a couple pieces of Wonder Bread around some ham and pickles and called it "lunch," millennials insist their sandwich bread be fresh and fancy, and preferably foreign, like ciabatta or brioche.

"For millennials, your bread is your signature," a trend spotter told USA Today earlier this month. "Millennials need to have something that says who they are — uniquely them. The more unique the better — hold the raisins."

Fast food companies have taken notice. Just this month, Wendy's released a burger served on a brioche bun, and Carl's Jr. announced it would start baking its buns fresh on the premises. Smashburger went so far as to serve one of its sandwiches on spicy chipotle bread.

Putting a jalapeno on it:
Millennials like "bold flavors," says a recent report by the Institute of Food Technologies, which often means chipotle, jalapeno, and "south of the border" spices. That explains the recent proliferation of jalapeno-flavored chips, which everyone from Lays to Cheeto's is now selling. It also may explain why Heinz just released jalapeno ketchup.

Naturally, the campaign features a little donkey and a millennial-aged guy with a Bieber 'do who likes to knit.

Carmel Lobello is the business editor at TheWeek.com. Previously, she was an editor at DeathandTaxesMag.com.

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