Let them eat Flakes: Kellogg’s CEO says poor families should consider ‘cereal for dinner’

Multimillionaire Gary Pilnick was excoriated on the internet, especially as cereal prices have risen 28% over the last four years.

The multimillionaire chief executive officer of the US food processing giant Kellogg’s has drawn scorn from some quarters after recently suggesting that families with strained finances could cope by eating “cereal for dinner”.
Gary Pilnick was speaking live on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street on 21 February when he delivered the remarks in question, which some have compared to the “let them eat cake” phrase frequently attributed without evidence to Marie Antoinette before her execution during the French Revolution.

“The cereal category has always been quite affordable, and it tends to be a great destination when consumers are under pressure,” Pilnick said amid a discussion about high grocery prices. “If you think about the cost of cereal for a family versus what they might otherwise do, that’s going to be much more affordable.”

The CNBC host Carl Quintanilla asked Pilnick – whose company’s brands include Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, Corn Pops and Rice Krispies – whether his remarks could “land the wrong way” with consumers who have been forced to spend about 26% more on groceries in general since 2020. Pilnick doubled down, saying: “In fact, it’s landing really well right now. Cereal for dinner is something that is probably more on trend now, and we would expect [it] to continue as that consumer is under pressure.”

That message has not actually landed that well with everyone who has heard it.

One TikTok user derisively referred to a September 2023 Securities and Exchange Commission filing which showed Pilnick earned an annual base salary of $1m and more than $4m in incentives. “This fool is making 4m bucks a year,” that user said. “Do you think he’s feeding his kids cereal for dinner?”

Another user on that social media platform reacted by saying: “What the hell kind of dystopian hellscape is this? Give the peasants cereal for dinner!”

One retorted: “Eat the rich instead”.” Various others pointed out how cereal – especially brands manufactured by Kellogg’s – isn’t especially cheap.

One person argued that a $10 family-size box of cereal along with a $3 carton of milk would cost about the same as frozen lasagne meant to feed the same amount of people for dinner.


Article URL : https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2024/feb/27/kelloggs-ceo-cereal-for-dinner