Week of December 18, 2022

Going with the Grain


The original breakfast cereal, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, came from an accidental discovery at a sanitarium. When brothers John Harvey Kellogg and Will Keith Kellogg found some wheat they’d cooked had gone stale, they nonetheless put the wheat through rollers hoping to make dough sheets. When they got flakes instead, they decided to toast them. This cereal was very popular at the Battle Creek, Michigan sanitarium they were managing at the time, and since it was neither spicy nor sweet, it did not risk arousing any “passions” which their Seventh Day Adventist religion attributed to such food. Various grains were experimented with, and eventually their corn cereal was mass produced starting in 1906. The green rooster mascot, still on the box today, is named Cornelius (“Corny”) and came about because a Welsh-speaking friend noted that her language’s word for rooster was “ceiliog,” which sounded like “Kellogg.”


Charles W. Post, previously a patient of the Battle Creek Sanitarium which the Kellogg brothers oversaw, started a competing cereal company, The Postum Cereal Company, Ltd., and produced a rival corn flake cereal called “Post Toasties.” Grape Nuts Cereal (still around today) soon followed, and through aggressive marketing and somewhat dubious health claims regarding his products, this other Battle Creek food company was a major industry player.


Tony the Tiger has been around since long before the cereal changed its name from “Sugar Frosted Flakes” as sugar content began to concern more consumers. It was previously revealed that Tony is Italian-American, has a mom Mama Tony, a wife Mrs. Tony, a son Tony Jr., and a young daughter Antoinette.


Grape Nuts cereal is made from wheat, barley, yeast, salt, and some added vitamins. The cereal never contained grapes nor nuts at any point in its 125-year history, so that now the product’s own website only has speculation as to why it was named so.


The first face to appear on a Wheaties box was fictional “all-American boy” Jack Armstrong in 1934, who was replaced later that year by real-life baseball legend Lou Gehrig. Prior to focusing on athletes, The Lone Ranger, pioneer female pilot Elinor Smith, and other non-athletes appeared on Wheaties boxes, though it was not until the 1950s that individuals appeared on the front of the box instead of the back. Notably, Wheaties was also the first product promoted with a musical jingle in its radio commercial.


The first appearance of iconic cereal mascots Snap, Crackle, and Pop was a solo appearance by Snap in 1933. The other brothers soon joined him, all first appearing as elderly gnomes rather than the youthful elves of later makeovers. A brief appearance of a taller, brawnier, fourth elf named Pow (short for “Power”), appeared dressed in spacesuits during the space race of the 1950s, but was soon retired.


We call it “cereal” after Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture and grain.