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Analysis | A bowl of cereal for dinner?

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In a television interview, the CEO of Kellogg suggested eating cereal at dinner to lower the grocery bill.

  • Gérald Fillion (View profile)Gérald Fillion

Voice synthesis, based on artificial intelligence, makes it possible to generate a spoken text from a written text.

Cereal at dinner is “a fantastic choice for consumers who are under financial pressure,” Kellogg's CEO said in an interview with CNBC on February 21. This proposal was, to say the least, poorly received on social networks. In the richest country in the world, how did we end up proposing, as if nothing had happened, to eat cereal at dinner to counter inflation?

It must be said that, for several years, Kellogg has been broadcasting advertisements offering consumers the opportunity to treat themselves to cereals with their evening meal. For a company that produces cereals, we can understand that they suggest you eat them! So far, so good.

But to see and hear the company's CEO, Gary Pilnick, propose in a television interview to consume its products at dinner to lower the grocery bill, while presenting this as a solution to inflation, this is a line that it should not have crossed, according to certain consumers having expressed on the web.

Comparing the cost of cereal for a family versus what you could do otherwise, it's much more affordable, according to the Kellogg honcho, who earned a total compensation of more than $4 million Americans in 2023.

CNBC host Carl Quintanilla asked Mr. Pilnick whether encouraging people to eat cereal for dinner might end up being poorly received. In fact, it's very well received at the moment, replied Gary Pilnick. Dinner cereal is something that's increasingly trendy, and we expect it to continue as consumers are under pressure.

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The CEO of Kellogg had obviously not properly measured the scope of his comments. Without being mistaken, we can speak of a real lack of sensitivity. His comments mark a great disconnect with the reality of the average household. One might wonder if Kellogg is trying to take financial advantage of the difficulties of a large number of households, who are having to deal with a drop in their purchasing power.

For many Internet users, Kellogg wants to exploit hunger to make profits. It is extreme capitalism, pure greed to invite, with a smile on their faces, Americans to save money by eating cereal for dinner. Do you think Gary Pilnick feeds his kids cereal for dinner? asks one TikTok user. What dystopian hellish world have we found ourselves in? asks another.

It should be remembered that never in 30 years have Americans and Canadians had to pay so much for food. Americans have had to pay 26% more for their grocery cart since 2020, and cereal prices, specifically, have soared 28% during the same period, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. During the last fiscal year, Kellogg raised its prices by 12%.

Kellogg's dinner cereal ad campaign launched in 2022 , a year in which food prices rose 9.9% in the United States, the most since 1979, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to a Pew Research Center survey in the United States, 44% of young people aged 18 to 34 received financial help from their parents during of the last year to pay for basic needs, whether groceries, telecommunications bills or housing.

Of all parents who financially support their children aged 18 to 34, more than a third do so to the detriment of their own financial situation. The poorest families, who more often help their adult children, see their situation deteriorate markedly.

Help from parents especially 18-24 year olds. As many as 52% of these young adults must rely on financial support from their parents. Additionally, 23% of 25-29 year olds and 18% of 30-34 year olds need help from their parents.

A third (33%) of young people aged 18 to 34 say, in return, they have helped their parents financially in the past year.

The comments of the CEO of Kellogg were made on American TV, but he would undoubtedly propose the same solution if he appeared at our microphones because the Hunger is also gaining ground here, even if socioeconomic inequalities are not as significant as in the United States.

As we reported before the holidays, food banks provided help to 30% more people in 2023 than the previous year in Quebec; the increase is 73% compared to 2019. According to the 2023 HungerCount, the food bank network helps 872,000 people every month. The sharp increase in requests at food banks is a widespread trend across Canada.

At the beginning of February, as part of the pre-budget consultations of the Minister of Finance, Eric Girard, Quebec food banks demanded $30 million in support from the government for the year 2024. At least one in 10 Quebecers has used food banks in recent months.

Food inflation is starting to slow in Canada, but the rise in rents has never been so strong in three decades in Canada. Over 12 months, from January 2023 to January 2024, the rent index increased by 7.9% in the country, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada.

The pressures that millions of people are facing right now are stressful and very difficult to live with. Suggesting eating cereal for dinner as an anti-inflation solution only adds insult and contempt to financial anxiety and uncertainty.

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