Kellogg’s CEO’s Recommendation to Eat Cereal for Dinner Underscores Average American’s Financial Hardships

kellogg cereal for dinner
terren in Virginia, via Wikimedia Commons

The CEO of Kellogg’s recently went on CNBC to discuss different ways his company is trying to ease the financial burden felt at the grocery store by millions of American consumers. His suggestion that doubled as a shameless plug to buy the product he represents left quite a bad taste in the mouths of everyday Americans.

Kellogg’s CEO recommended that American families serve cereal for dinner to pinch some pennies, claiming that the message isn’t tone-deaf but actually in line with what many Americans are doing already. In one small CNBC segment, CEO Gary Pilnick illustrated the lived experience divide between the wealthy elite and the rest of America and the very real financial strain placed on the country due to President Biden’s inflation.

While many Americans aren’t strangers to eating cereal for dinner to save money, the idea that this should be celebrated, if not actively advertised, as a way to deal with the poor economic policies of the current administration is not just self-serving in the case of Kellogg and their CEO but misses the bigger picture. Grab a spoon and your favorite box of cereal as we dive into this latest big brand PR disaster.

Let them eat cornflakes

Kellogg’s CEO Gary Pilnick has created quite a firestorm over his remarks on CNBC. While discussing the brand’s latest advertising push to convince Americans to skip a wholesome dinner with meat, vegetables, and the occasional starch in exchange for a bowl of cereal, he explained:

“We gotta reach the consumer where they are, so we’re advertising about cereal for dinner.”

He went on to tout that:

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

One could wager that his wording could’ve been finessed a bit more, yet it gets worse. Mr. Pilnick continued:

“…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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But the sugar on top of this insulting bowl of Rice Krispies came when Mr. Pilnick claimed that the price of a bowl of cereal with milk and fruit is “less than a dollar,” explaining:

“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.”

What a novel idea. Let’s look at what it’s costing Americans to feed their families these days and see if Mr. Pilnick has his finger on the pulse of the American consumer.

Do you even shop, bro?

Mr. Pilnick’s claim that a bowl of cereal with milk and some fresh fruit costs less than a dollar is laughable. I’m a savvy grocery shopper since I have to feed a family of four.

I don’t know what grocery store Mr. Pilnick shops at because the cost of fruit alone is staggering, let alone milk and a box of his cereal. To give you an idea, today, when I went grocery shopping at my local chain store, it cost the following for what he laid out as a dinner alternative:

  • $3.79 – carton of 2% milk
  • $5.49 – 18 oz box of Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats
  • $1.99 – 1 lbs of apples

Considering that the above will barely last my household a week just for breakfast alone, it’s easy to tell that Mr. Pilnick’s claim that a bowl of cereal with milk and fruit would cost less than a dollar is fuzzy math. I would need to buy twice the amount I bought today in addition to dealing with my kids complaining about having the same thing for breakfast and dinner every day.

Additionally, the cost of cereal and bakery products has increased by over 27% since the pandemic, and according to the Consumer Price Index, the average price of cereal in the United States went up 6% in 2021 and a staggering 13% in 2022. Overall, Americans are spending more on food than they have spent in the past three decades.

In 2022, Americans spent over 11% of their disposable income on food. By the end of last year, Americans paid 20% more for groceries compared to 2021. According to Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi, U.S. households had to pay $213 more monthly for the same goods and services this year than last year.

The answer to the financial “pressure,” as Mr. Pilnick referred to it, isn’t more over-priced Fruit Loops and less grilled chicken with broccoli and potatoes. The answer is an administration that doesn’t shift the blame for inflation on symptoms of their poor policies but actually does something to make chicken, broccoli, and potatoes in addition to all the other food American’s buy more affordable.

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If Mr. Pilnick wants to spend his $1 million a year base salary on cereal for dinner, he certainly can; this family is opting to coupon and start growing their own produce. It’ll be cheaper in the long run than eating a bowl of his company’s cereal twice daily.

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USAF Retired, Bronze Star recipient, outspoken veteran advocate. Hot mess mom to two monsters and wife to equal parts... More about Kathleen J. Anderson