Backlash as Kellogg’s boss says poor families should consider ‘cereal for dinner’

The chief executive of Kellogg's has sparked a backlash after urging customers who are struggling to feed their families to eat cereal for dinner.

Gary Pilnick provoked anger after suggesting that people struggling with the cost of living should choose cereal as a "much more affordable" alternative to a proper meal.

“The cereal category has always been quite affordable, and it tends to be a great destination when consumers are under pressure,” he told CNBC.

“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.”

Doctors advise against a diet of cereal as it is high in sugar, low in protein and does not provide sufficient nutrition.

Pressed on whether telling customers to eat cereal could "land the wrong way", Mr Pilnick replied: "In fact, it’s landing really well right now.”

In an earlier interview with CNN, he claimed that "cereal for dinner is something that is probably more on trend now".

“We would expect [the trend] to continue as that consumer is under pressure," he added.

The questions were prompted by an advertising campaign by Kellogg's which urged consumers to “give chicken the night off” and eat a bowl of Frosted Flakes or Corn Flakes instead.

His comments sparked criticism on social media, with users comparing his remarks to Marie Antoinette's phrase “let them eat cake” during the French Revolution.

Evan Sutton, founder of the consultancy firm Firekit Campaigns, claimed that “greedflation” — the practice of companies increasing prices during a period of inflationary — was “forcing families to make choices like eating cereal for dinner to save money”.

He added: “Kellogg’s CEO is bragging about it while they show the huge climb in corporate profits that helped create the problem in the first place.”

Peter Welch, senator for the US state of Vermont, wrote on X: "A worker at Kellogg’s making $20/hour would have to work 96 years to equal the $4 million that CEO Gary Pilnick makes annually.

"People don’t need to eat cereal for dinner, they need corporations to stop ripping them off."

The price of food in supermarkets has risen sharply in the past two years following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which sent the price of energy and grain soaring in Europe and the US.

Last year, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said there was evidence that grocery brands were putting prices up more aggressively than could be justified by rising costs during the inflation crisis.

But the CMA said there was little evidence of supermarkets themselves profiteering as the high level of competition in the sector means profit margins remain low.