There is no question that cold cereals revolutionized the American breakfast table. No longer did mom have to cook hot cereal, eggs or meat, and kids could independently prepare something for themselves before going off to college. At the turn of the twentieth century, the creation of cereal basically started with two enterprising men who saw the possibilities and took a gamble. And breakfast hasn’t been the same.
In the late 1890s, a somewhat eccentric man named John Harvey Kellogg, ran a health sanitarium at Battle Creek, Michigan, and had established a bland, tasteless food for his patients with digestive issues. A few years later, his brother Will decided to mass-market the new food at his new company, Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, including a bit of sugar to the flakes recipe making it more palatable for the masses, and a star was born.
Around the same time, C. W. Post, who was a patient in Kellogg’s sanitarium, introduced an alternative to java called Postum, followed by Grape-Nuts (that have nothing to do with either grapes or nuts) and his version of Kellogg’s corn flakes, naming them Post Toasties, and America’s breakfasts were never the same.
Both guys could thank an enterprising gentleman by the name of Sylvester Graham, who twenty years before had experimented with graham flour, marketing it to help”digestive issues.” He produced a breakfast cereal which was dried and broken into shapes so hard they had to be soaked in milk overnight, which he predicted granula (the father of granola and graham crackers).
Capitalizing on that original idea, in 1898 the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) started producing graham crackers based on the experiments of Sylvester Graham, first promoting them as a”digestive” cracker for people with stomach problems; (Sounds a lot of people had gastrointestinal problems even back then.)
Fast forward and other companies were sitting up and taking notice. The Quaker Oats Company, obtained a method which forced rice grains to burst and started marketing Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat, calling them a marvel of food science that was”the first food shot from guns” (oh boy, would they come under fire for this one today, no pun intended);
1920s Wheaties was introduced and cleverly targeted athletes as they proclaimed to be the”Breakfast of Champions;”
The 1930s saw The Ralston Purina company introduce an early version of Wheat Chex, calling it Shredded Ralston (sounds somewhat painful);
Soon Cheerios appeared and would become the best-selling cereal in the usa, worth roughly $1 billion in sales in 2015.
Nobody can dispute the convenience and versatility of dry packed cereal. In the past fifty years, this multi-billion dollar market has spun off multiple uses, unlimited possibilities and targeted kids with clever packaging, outrageous names, flavors, colors and options (all loaded with sugar of course).