Did the CEO of Kellogg’s say poor people should eat cereal for dinner?

By February 29, 2024 Business, Lifestyle

We came across the following claim across multiple accounts in posts on the social media platforms X/Twitter and Reddit:

These claims suggested that the CEO of Kellogg’s had said that ‘poor people should eat cereal for dinner’.

Kellogg’s is a brand name used by two companies that were both once part of the American multinational food manufacturing company Kellogg Company.

These two companies are WK Kellogg Co and Kellanova. WK Kellogg Co owns the North American cereal division, while Kellanova produces cereal outside North America, along with other food products.

Kellogg’s is well known across the world for its cereal products, several of which are widely available in Singapore, such as Corn Flakes and Coco Pops.

Widely Reported, but Headlines Differ

When we looked up the claim, we found that the claim did appear to have a measure of truth.

Several established media outlets had reported that WK Kellogg CEO Gary Plinck had faced a backlash for suggesting that consumers could consider having cereal for dinner as a way to combat the pressures of food inflation.

We traced the original content to a video interview on the American business-focused news channel CNBC in a segment on the ‘Squawk on the Street’ show, where Plinck was invited to discuss food inflation and the effects of market forces on the food industry.

In the segment, Plinck spoke about how WK Kellogg and the cereal industry could consider the ‘consumer under pressure’ and that they should ‘reach the consumer where they are’.

He added that WK Kellogg was advertising cereal for dinner as ‘the cereal category has always been quite affordable’ and would cost far less than what they might otherwise eat, suggesting that the price of a bowl with milk and fruit is ‘less than a dollar’.

Some news reports indicated that the Kellogg Company, before its split into WK Kellogg and Kellanova, had been running the ‘cereal for dinner’ ad campaign since at least 2022.

When challenged by one host that suggesting cereal for dinner could ‘land the wrong way’, Plinck was adamant that the campaign was landing well.

He said 25% of cereal was being consumed outside of breakfast, much of that at dinner, and that this proportion was growing and ‘on trend’.

Another host responded positively, admitting that ‘as a busy mum, (she had) had cereal for dinner more than once recently’.

A Public Relations Fiasco

While Kelloggs’ ‘cereal for dinner’ campaign may not have drawn much attention previously, the decision to draw the link to families struggling with food inflation may have been ill-advised, inviting anger on this occasion and causing the interview segment to go viral.

The different headlines employed by different outlets appears to have possibly contributed to the backlash, with some outlets employing a more measured tone while others juxtaposed ‘poor people’ with Plinck’s US$4 million salary.

While some of these headlines rely on sensationalised reporting and paraphrasing, possibly misrepresenting the intent of Plinck, there is little doubt that struggling families would have viewed Plinck’s suggestions as ill-timed and insensitive regardless.

While Plinck did not say specifically that ‘poor people should eat cereal for dinner’, his comments about the ‘consumer under pressure’ achieve a similar effect. Moreover, the social media posts mirror headlines in news reports that interpreted Plinck’s statements as such.

As such, we find this claim to be partially true, as some sensationalism is employed in the claim.

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