There’s absolutely no question that cold cereals revolutionized the American breakfast table. No longer did mom need to cook hot cereal, eggs or meat, and kids could independently prepare something for themselves before heading off to school. At the turn of the twentieth century, the creation of cereal essentially began with two enterprising men who saw the possibilities and took a gamble. And breakfast has never been the same.
In the late 1890s, a somewhat eccentric man named John Harvey Kellogg, conducted a health sanitarium at Battle Creek, Michigan, and had established a bland, tasteless food for his patients with digestive troubles. A few years later, his brother Will chose to kickstart the new food at his new firm, Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, including a bit of sugar into 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 don’t have anything 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 forty years earlier had experimented with graham flour, marketing it to help”digestive problems.” He produced a breakfast cereal which was dried and divided into shapes so hard they needed to be soaked in milk overnight, which he called 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 those who have stomach problems; (Sounds a lot of people had gastrointestinal problems even back then.)
Fast forward and other businesses were sitting up and taking notice. The Quaker Oats Company, obtained a method which compelled rice grains to explode and began marketing Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat, calling them a marvel of food science which was”the first food shot from guns” (oh boy, would they come under fire for this one now, no pun intended);
1920s Wheaties has been introduced and cleverly targeted athletes as they proclaimed to be the”Breakfast of Champions;”
The 1930s saw The Ralston Purina firm introduce an early version of Wheat Chex, calling it Shredded Ralston (seems a little painful);
Shortly Cheerios appeared and would become the best-selling cereal in America, worth about $1 billion in sales in 2015.
No one can dispute the convenience and flexibility of dry packaged 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, Rat Poop, colors and options (all loaded with sugar of course).