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How Kellogg's Corn Flakes Became the Accidental Cereal
The Kellogg Brothers and Battle Creek's Sanitarium
We've all been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But as you eat your breakfast cereal in the morning, you've probably never stopped to think that the bowl of corn flakes that you may be eating almost never was. As a proud Michigander and a history buff, the story of how corn flakes came to be has always been one that has fascinated me. The founder of Kellogg Cereal, W.M. Kellogg and his brother, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, ran a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan back in the late 1800s. Dr. Kellogg was extraordinarily health conscious for his day. He was a strict vegetarian and believed that anything that was not natural should not be consumed. It is quite interesting that the ideas that he professed in the late 1800’s are the same that health experts are touting today: daily exercise, whole grains, no smoking, no caffeine, no alcoholic drinks and to learn how to live a healthy lifestyle on a daily basis. He founded the sanitarium for the elite of his day to promote a healthy lifestyle. People from all over would come to his center for relaxation and rejuvenation but more importantly, to learn how live a healthier life. Mary Todd Lincoln and Sojouner Truth were among the guests that practiced the good health principles of Dr. Kellogg.
The History of Corn Flakes
So what does all of this have to do with corn flakes? Well, being so very health conscious, Dr. Kellogg wanted to feed his clients the best possible food available. Since it was important to him that his guests eat high quality foods, he and his brother made food on the premises. While cooking wheat one day, the brothers had to step away to attend to important business matters and left the wheat out. Later they came back to find that it had become stale. Instead of just throwing it out, they decided to try to roll it out into dough and continue to create the food. To their surprise it did not roll out into dough but began to flake into pieces. They toasted these flakes and served them to their guests. It was a hit with the clients and at that point they tried the same process with other types of grains. Not only was a tasty food created for the patients at The Battle Creek Sanitarium, but unbeknownst to the brothers, a whole new industry had been created. Little did they know that this discovery would revolutionize the way people would now eat breakfast. In 1906, Kellogg's Corn Flakes as we know it today, was created when W.M. Kellogg decided to start his own company and mass produced the breakfast cereal making breakfast a now quick "on the go" type of meal.
Kellogg Company Today
Battle Creek, Michigan is dubbed the “Cereal City, USA.” In the early days the general public was able to tour the factory. There were paper hats that were given out for the people to wear and served as souvenirs at the end of the tour. In 1986, the company stopped giving tours claiming that it was for both security and sanitary reasons. In response to the closing of the factory tours, a museum, Cereal City, USA was created in 1998. The museum simulated the cereal making process, souvenir shops, and play area for kids. Unfortunately the museum closed in 2007 leaving cereal enthusiasts no place to tour. The Kellogg Company is a huge corporation today which operates under many brand names from Sunshine to Keebler to Morning Star and even Kashi. Their products span from the original health conscious fare such as cereals and veggie burgers to much more consumer driven food such as snack cookies and crackers that are far from the mission of the sanitarium in which the company evolved from. So the next time that you sit down and eat a bowl of Kellogg's Corn Flakes, think about the long history of the bowl of toasted flakes that sits before you.
Useless Kellogg Trivia
- The rooster’s name on the box of Corn Flakes is Cornelius, Corny for short.
- One ad campaign gave a box of cereal free to each woman that winked at her grocer.
- The movie The Road to Wellville is loosely based on the sanatorium that the Kelloggs ran in Battle Creek.
- Kellogg was the first company to advertise on a billboard in Times Square, New York
- 128 billion bowls of corn flakes are eaten world wide annually.
- There are approximately 299 rice krispies in a rice krispie treat.
- Kellogg's Corn Flakes was the originator of the cereal box prizes with the Funny Jungleland Moving Picture Book in the early 1900s.