'Let them eat cornflakes': Kellogg's boss compared to Marie Antoinette after saying poor people eat cereal for dinner

28 February 2024, 10:42 | Updated: 28 February 2024, 12:29

Boss of Kelloggs sparks fury after suggesting struggling customers should eat cereal for dinner
Boss of Kelloggs sparks fury after suggesting struggling customers should eat cereal for dinner. Picture: Alamy

By StephenRigley

The boss of Kellogg's has been criticised for suggesting poor people should eat cereal for dinner to save money.

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

The CEO, who makes more than $4million a year, said: "The cereal category has always been quite affordable and it tends to be a great destination when consumers are under pressure.

“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.”

Kelloggs CEO Gary Pilnick
Kelloggs CEO Gary Pilnick. Picture: CNBC

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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.

Asked if this strategy had the potential to “land the wrong way,” Mr Pilnick disagreed.“We don’t think so — in fact, it’s landing really well right now,” he said.

But Mr Pilnick is facing widespread backlash for the interview, with many calling it out for being out-of-touch and tone-deaf.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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