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 children could independently prepare something for themselves before going off to school. At the turn of the twentieth century, the creation of cold cereal essentially started with two enterprising men who saw the possibilities and took a gamble. And breakfast hasn’t been the same.
From the late 1890s, a somewhat eccentric man named John Harvey Kellogg, ran a health sanitarium at Battle Creek, Michigan, and had created 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 firm, Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, adding a little sugar to the flakes recipe which makes it more palatable for 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 not 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 problems.” He created a breakfast cereal which was dried and divided into shapes so tough they had to be soaked in milk overnight, which he called 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 those who have 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, acquired 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 taken from guns” (oh boy, would they come under fire for that one now, 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 (seems somewhat painful);
Shortly Cheerios appeared and would become the best-selling cereal in America, worth about $1 billion in sales in 2015.
Nobody can dispute the convenience and versatility 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, Raccoon Poop, flavors, colors and options (all loaded with sugar of course). What could be more American than corn flakes?