There is 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 going off to school. At the turn of the twentieth century, the creation of cold cereal essentially began with two enterprising men who saw the possibilities and took a gamble. And breakfast has never been the same.
From the late 1890s, a somewhat eccentric man named John Harvey Kellogg, ran a health sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, and had established a bland, tasteless food for his patients with digestive troubles. A few years later, his brother Will decided to mass-market the new food at his new firm, Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, including a little sugar into the flakes recipe which makes it more palatable to the masses, and a star was born.
Around the same time, C. W. Post, who was a patient in Kellogg’s sanitarium, introduced a substitute for java named Postum, followed by Grape-Nuts (which 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 not 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 issues.” He created 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 concept, 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 plenty 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 forced rice grains to explode 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 now, 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 firm introduce an early version of Wheat Chex, calling it Shredded Ralston (seems somewhat painful);
Soon Cheerios appeared and would become the best-selling cereal in America, worth roughly $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 applications, unlimited possibilities and targeted children with clever packaging, outrageous names, flavors, colors and choices (all loaded with sugar of course). What could be more American than corn flakes?