‘Cereal for dinner’: Kellogg CEO faces backlash for suggesting ‘affordable’ meal option

FILE - View of a table setting with a bowl of breakfast cereal (and banana slices), a cup of coffee, and a pitcher of milk. (Tom Kelley/Getty Images)

During an interview with CNBC’s "Squawk on the Street" last week, Kellogg CEO Gary Pilnick suggested families who are struggling to make ends meet should eat more cereal, as it's a cheaper food option. 

"When we think about our consumer under pressure, there’s things that we can do, but most importantly, what this category can do. The cereal category has always been quite affordable and it tends to be a great destination when consumers are under pressure. So, some of the things that we’re doing is first, messaging. You’ve got to reach the consumer where they are, so we’re advertising about ‘cereal for dinner,’" Pilnick said. 

"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," he added. 

"In general, the cereal category is a place that a lot of folks might come to because the price of a bowl of cereal, with milk and with fruit, is less than a dollar," Pilnick said. 

When asked if suggesting that struggling families should think about having cereal for dinner as a budget-friendly option could possibly "land the wrong way" with viewers, Pilnick stayed steadfast. 

"We don’t think so, in fact it’s landing really well right now," Pilnick said, claiming data collected by the company showed that over 25% of people are eating cereal outside of breakfast time. 

Pilnick claimed that many people are actually already eating cereal during dinner time and that it’s a growing trend among American families. 

"Cereal for dinner is something that is probably more on-trend now and we would expect to continue as that consumer is under pressure," Pilnick said. 

The majority of viewers did not respond kindly to Pilnick’s suggestion, with some commenters saying Pilnick was disconnected from what the average American is experiencing. 

Viewers also noted consuming large quantities of cereal daily could have negative health benefits, and noticed that the show’s hosts did not seem to think to point that out or ask about it. 

"Let them eat cake energy," one commenter wrote. 

"Bros out of touch with reality," another said. 

RELATED: Food cost compared to income is highest in 30 years

Grocery prices

As Americans continue to battle high prices at the grocery store as inflation levels remain elevated, many consumers are changing the way they shop. 

People are opting for cheaper store-brand items as opposed to name brands as a way to fight back inflation. 

In recent months, consumer resistance has led large food companies to respond by sharply slowing their price increases from the peaks of the past three years. 

This doesn’t mean grocery prices will fall back to their levels of a few years ago, though with some items, including eggs, apples and milk, prices are below their peaks. 

But the milder increases in food prices should help further cool overall inflation, which is down sharply from a peak of 9.1% in 2022 to 3.1%. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.