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When General Mills leaders said a Kellogg cereal spinoff would be good for the industry, this is probably not what they had in mind.

"Cereal for dinner is something that is probably more on trend now, and we would expect [that] to continue as that consumer is under pressure," Kellogg CEO Gary Pilnick told CNBC recently. "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."

Kellogg has been promoting cereal-for-dinner since 2022 when it launched a contest encouraging consumers to "give chicken the night off." Still, numerous media outlets jumped on Pilnick's comments this week, and online discourse turned sour quick, likening his words to the derisive "let them eat cake" sentiment the out-of-touch wealthy can have toward the struggling lower classes. Think Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution (allegedly).

Others defended the bowls of affordable calories as Americans spend a greater share of their money on food after years of intense inflation.

Executives at Golden Valley-based General Mills, which is the No. 1 cereal producer in the nation, have said the cereal category is better off when "everyone comes to play."

"If you go back through history, when the two major competitors in the category are supporting it with marketing as well as innovation, the category does better," Jon Nudi, then head of General Mills' North American Retail division, said last fall.

General Mills leaders and industry analysts have said some of the same things Pilnick did last week: that cereal is affordable and often gets a boost during tough economic times. The makers of Cheerios and Cinnamon Toast Crunch have not gone on national television to say cereal for dinner is "landing very well right now," as Pilnick did, however.

Pilnick's plea for cereal at suppertime comes as consumers are buying fewer boxes of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes and other brands. Sales have been increasing, but that's almost entirely from price increases. Store brands have also seen a boost.

The $10 billion U.S. cereal market has seen hefty inflation in recent years, including an average price increase of 13% last year, according to Circana. Kellogg brought the biggest cereal price hikes in 2023, raising prices 17%.

Kellogg spun off its cereal business into a standalone company in October. The remaining company, renamed Kellanova, focuses on snack foods like Pop-Tarts and Pringles.