Breakfast Cereals

Prior to the 1860s, breakfast cereal came in one variety—oatmeal porridge. This was not a quick breakfast dish, as it needed to be cooked for a long time. The solution was to cook a large batch and then reheat daily. In 1877, prepacked American Quaker brand rolled oats that had a much faster cooking time than oatmeal were introduced. The first ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, Granula, was invented by James Caleb Jackson of Dansville, New York, in 1863. Jackson found that small cooked granules of graham cracker dough made a suitable cold breakfast cereal, served with cold milk. However, it was not until the 1890s that the idea of ready-to-eat breakfast cereal really took off. John Harvey Kellogg had become director of the Battle Creek Sanitarium and, with his brother, Will, had begun to develop easily digestible foods for invalids. They developed a baked wheat flake cereal that was marketed in 1895 as Granose, the first flaked breakfast cereal. Soon after, a second breakfast cereal enterprise came into being in Battle Creek, when C.W. Post, founder of the Postum Company, developed Grape Nuts in 1897.

In 1898, Will Kellogg developed Cornflakes, the cereal that became most closely associated with the Kellogg name. Kellogg’s became the company name in 1922, replacing the Sanitas Nut Food Company (1898) and the Battle Creek Toasted Flake Company (1906). The first ready-to-eat breakfast cereal to reach the British market was Force Flakes, made in Canada, in 1902.

Although early breakfast cereals followed very healthy formulas, with only small amounts of malt and sugar added for extra flavor, as time went on, sugar content increased dramatically and fiber content fell accordingly. Kellogg’s Sugar Smacks, introduced in 1953, had a 56 percent sugar content. In the more health-conscious society of the late 1950s, Kellogg’s did introduce healthier cereals, such as Special K in 1955, but the company no longer had a healthy whole-foods image. Muesli, a favorite Swiss breakfast food that contains nuts and dried fruit, has become the epitome of the healthy breakfast cereal.