There is not any 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 heading off to college. 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 rather 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 troubles. A few years later, his brother Will chose to kickstart the new food in his new company, Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, adding a bit of 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 had been a patient in Kellogg’s sanitarium, introduced a substitute for coffee 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 never the same.
Both men could thank an enterprising gentleman by the name of Sylvester Graham, who twenty years before had experimented with graham flour, marketing it to aid”digestive issues.” He created a breakfast cereal that 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) began producing graham crackers based on the experiments of Sylvester Graham, first promoting them as a”digestive” cracker for those who have stomach problems; (Seems plenty 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 explode and began marketing Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat, calling them a marvel of food science that was”the first food taken from guns” (oh boy, would they come under fire for that one today, no pun intended);
1920s Wheaties was introduced and 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);
Shortly 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 industry 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).