Kellogg CEO Says “Let Them Eat Corn Flakes” to Shoppers Who Can’t Afford Groceries Due to Price Gouging

By: Alyssa Miller | Published: Mar 13, 2024

Grocery prices have been on the rise for some time now. While some people are cutting coupons or readjusting their budgets to afford the same amount of groceries they purchased before 2023, Kellogg’s CEO has a recommendation for people.

In a recent interview with CNBC, Kellogg’s CEO Gary Pilnick told shoppers that they could eat cereal for dinner.

Grocery Prices Reach New Heights

Right now, consumers are spending more of their income on food than at any point in 30 years (this doesn’t even account for the fact that people are spending more than half of their income on rent).

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A metal shopping cart with U.S. banknotes in it against a purple background

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Those looking for an affordable option should consider cereal, according to Pilnick’s latest campaign to battle rising grocery prices.

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Kellogg’s CEO Says “Let Them Eat Flakes”

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

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Cereal in milk in a green bowl

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Pilnick continued: “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 Public Fires Back

The advice did not sit well with the public, which CNN reports has been spending more than 26 percent of their monthly income on groceries since 2020. Social media users are calling the campaign insensitive.

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A man with a beard posing next to a blue box of cereal

Source: Mike Mozart/Flickr

Even CNBC host Carl Quintanilla asked Pilnick if the encouragement to eat cereal as a viable dinner choice could “land the wrong way.”

Kellogg’s CEO Believes Cereal for Dinner is on Trend

“In fact, it’s landing really well right now,” Pilnick said with confidence. “Cereal for dinner is something that is probably more on trend now, and we would expect to continue as that consumer is under pressure.”

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Colore circles of cereal in a bowl

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Kellogg’s brands include Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, Corn Pops, Rice Krispies, and more, dawning a cheeky tagline that reads: “Give chicken the night off.”

The Public Says Pilnick Is Out of Touch

Despite Pilnick’s confidence that the campaign will do well, social media users have compared the campaign to the infamous quote attributed to Marie Antoinette, “Let them eat cake.”

Several different brands of boxed cereal at the grocery store

Source: Willis Lam/Flickr

A September 2023 Securities and Exchange Commission filing showed Pilnick earned an annual base salary of $1 million and $4 million in incentives. One TikTok user asked, “This fool is making $4 million bucks a year. Do you think he’s feeding his kids cereal for dinner?”

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Grocery Prices Have Been on the Rise Since 2020

Grocery and restaurant prices have skyrocketed since the COVID-19 pandemic. The last time grocery prices cost more than 25 percent of the consumer’s income was in 1991, according to the Wall Street Journal, citing data from the U.S. Agriculture Department.

A close-up of Corn Flakes

Source: Mike Mozart/Flickr

The cause for the rising prices is a result of inflation and higher costs for labor, ingredients, and transportation.

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Cereal Prices Have Also Been on the Rise

Social media users are calling the comment tone-deaf as Kellogg’s CEO did not address the fact that cereal prices have been on the rise since 2020. In the last fiscal year, Kellogg raised prices by 12 percent.

The cereal aisle at the supermarket

Source: Wikimedia Commons

On top of that, the popular cereal, which costs $7, is not an adequate substitution for a full dinner for a family of four.

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Is Cereal Even a Healthy Choice?

Healthline states that cereal may be convenient and boast health claims, but the truth is that cereals are highly processed and often contain added sugar and refined carbs.

Cereal in a white bowl with red fruit on a wooden table

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Beyond cereal, which has an overly processed ingredients list and health claims that should be examined with skepticism, many healthier breakfast options exist.

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This Isn’t the First Time Kellogg Has Recommend Cereal for Dinner 

Kellogg has been pushing its “cereal for dinner” campaign since 2022 when food prices have increased by 9.9 percent.

A bowl of square cereal in a bowl with milk

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“Advertising to hungry people that cereal might be good for dinner is not ‘meeting people where they are’,” self-help author Marianne Williamson wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “It’s exploiting the hungry for financial gain.”

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Other Fast Food Chains Push Higher Prices 

Kellogg’s isn’t the only company to receive backlash recently. Wendy’s attempted to create a “surge” pricing strategy for their menus, which means that the fast food chain would change prices throughout the day but bailed on the idea after intense backlash from the public.

A close up of a cheeseburger and chicken nuggets against a red background

Source: DoorDash

McDonald’s is also under fire (again) for raising their menu prices. Now, the cost of Big Mac meals is costing consumers around $18.

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There Are Other Choices at the Grocery Store 

Food prices are high, but there are many ways to help cut back the cost of groceries. While we have a few tips to help you plan your budget around groceries and the best deals to look for at your local grocery, we recommend finding a solution that works best for you.

Several people cheers over a dinner on a wooden table

Source: Fauxels/Pexels

One thing is for sure. You do not have to eat cereal for dinner. Instead, take the money that a box of cereal costs and make a delicious lasagna that you can freeze and reheat throughout the week. There are always options, remember that when you feel caught in a financial corner.

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