A Personal Tribute To Early American Cereals
Here Are Just A Few Samples Of Vintage American Cereal Boxes
If you work for Kellogg’s, Post, Quaker or any of the big cereal companies, you might get your feelings hurt at this story. The same applies to those who have retired from Kellogg’s, Post, Quaker or any of the big cereal companies. Just giving you a heads-up.
I confess. At heart, I am not that bad of a man. At least I don’t think I am. I don’t abuse my wife, my grandchildren, strangers, animals, insects, reptiles, rodents, fish, fowl, or plants. I try to mind my own business. Help my neighbor by keeping my nose out of their affairs and respecting God and country to the best of my mortal ability. But I will leave the final vote whether you consider me bad or good, up to you.
This is the part of my story that might cause you to think that I once was, or maybe still am, a Communist. A Karl Marx disciple. An owner of a Communist flag that I keep nailed on the wall of my bedroom. And if you thought these or any other thoughts of that nature, you would be dead-wrong. Incorrect. I love America. And America’s citizens. But I never thought of breakfast being the most-important meal of the day. I am sorry. I never got into the habit of rising before sun up, chowing down a huge American breakfast, and then trudging to school. I did a few times, chow down a huge American breakfast that my mom made for me and it made me nauseated later in the day. This is in no means a knock on my mom’s cooking.
The reason I guess that eating breakfast was tough, was that I went to bed with school-related issues on my mind. And arose the next day with school-related issues on my mind--tests, P.E., tests, dress code, tests, lunchroom dilemmas (the food), tests, talking to girls, not getting beaten-up, and those nerve-bending tests.
When I became a man and got out on my own, I would go to bed with work-related issues on my mind and you know the rest. I can safely assume that the deal about not having breakfast was all a mental thing. There! Solved the problem. Too late. I am way out of school and unable to work. But even now, I only eat breakfast on Saturday mornings when my wife is with me. She works at our Walmart SuperCenter in Hamilton, Alabama, and I do not ask her to cook, at all, especially through the week. Her cooking on Saturday mornings was her decision.
Since this story is food-related, I can tell you this personal truth: in the few times that I have had breakfast as a student in school, my breakfast food of choice was cereal. Didn’t matter what brand. Cereal. Any shape, size, or coating. Loved me that cereal. With milk, or out of the box or dry as powder. Cereal rated high on my “foods I could eat and may not get nauseated later list,” and I really didn’t have a certain favorite cereal for I had a love-food-relationship with most every brand of cereal made in the United States. I was once tempted to write Kellogg’s Cereals, Battle Creek, Michigan, and testify to them just how good their products were, but my mom said that the people at Kellogg’s would only laugh at me and think that I was a lunatic, so I scrapped that idea. What I thought might happen was that they, Kellogg’s, would get my letter, open it at a high-level customer feedback meeting, read it aloud and with a loud cheer of appreciation, send me a case or two, maybe three, do I hear four? Of my favorite cereal for my very own. Just for writing an honest evaluation about their cereals. Another dream down the tubes. Bit the dust. Gone.
With all sincerity, I cannot tell you this story is devoted entirely to the positive affect that Kellogg’s and other leading cereal manufacturing companies have had on our country for years, or the creative, elaborate ways in which the cereal companies packaged their cereals not only for capturing the mom’s (mostly) attention who shopped for their family’s groceries, and then when their attention was captured, the cereal with the most-persuasive box design and wording was the one she bought. Tough choice. I guess I will go with “door number two, Monty,” and see how far down the road of cereal marketing and packaging I can travel.
Alpha Bits, by Post, started out early with a simple box design that featured the cereal in a tasty photo that would temp the most-finicky youngster, but the real reason Alpha Bits was so successful is that children could actually learn their alphabet by placing the cereal letters into words and thus, learning the English language at an early age. This cereal was also a delicious treat to eat without milk while watching television.
Post Toasties, was an early breakfast cereal that had simple, non-glitzy design. Most cereal companies were going along with the atmosphere of American society at this time and being that our country was conservative, so the owners of Post Toasties played along. And sold millions of boxes of this cereal just for that lone idea.
Post Grape Nut Flakes. I used and early rendering of this cereal. This cereal was nutritious, delicious and almost became the favorite of American breakfast tables. Grape nut flakes were not fancy. Did not feature a ballplayer or actor on the box, just plain grape nut flakes. The product sold itself. And grape nut flakes was also a great midnight snack while watching some good late-night television.
Post Sugar Crisp didn’t pull any punches. Cereal companies didn’t have to pull punches in this era. Sugar was not deemed unhealthy as it is today, so the Post Cereal Company ‘let it all hang out’ and had their boxes say, up front, ‘sugar crisp’ and let that be that. Sugar Crisp today in 2011, would be flogged by numerous government and nutrition groups for even using sugar in their cereal. How times and cereal has changed.
Post Rice Krinkles might have been an early prototype for a competing cereal company, Kellogg’s, who first came out with Rice Krispies. Rice Krinkles didn’t catch fire as predicted by Post analysts, and remains today in the ‘Cereals of Yesteryear Hall of Fame.’
Wheaties has been around for ages. Strong. Enduring. Just like the numerous professional athletes who have appeared on their boxes which was their selling point. America thought that if Joe DiMaggio eats Wheaties, then our little ‘Tommy’ can eat Wheaties and little ‘Susie’ too. Wheaties: “The Breakfast of Champions,” has been the most enduring cereal slogan besides Tony Tiger’s, “Thhheyyy-re, GREEeat!”
Kellogg’s Raisin Bran scored high with moms and dads when it came to what cereal was best to feed to their kids. Raisins are a great source of nutrients, protein and natural energy. The bran provides daily fiber for the youngsters, so what is not to like about Kellogg’s Raisin Bran? The cereal had a moderately-exciting box able to capture mom’s attention when she shopped for groceries. Kellogg’s package designers were ahead of their time with their marketing ideas.
Kellogg’s Shredded Wheat didn’t use the flashy, Hollywood glitter approach to packaging. Just make the product look delicious and fun to eat as Kellogg’s did in the large photo on the box of Shredded Wheat. Personally, I didn’t like shredded wheat by anyone. But that was not Kellogg’s fault, but mine, for being such a puny eater in the morning time.
Kix by General Mills, didn’t need fancy packaging to sell their product. The box just stated the cereal name: Kix, and it was sold by the hundreds of boxes for the simplicity of the packaging. Again, conservatism works. It worked for Kix.
Kellogg’s Rice Krispies were an over-night sensation. The television ad campaign featured three elves named ‘Snap,’ ‘Crackel,’ and ‘Pop,’ who adored the bowl of cereal--listening to the cereal make that exact sound: snap, crackel and pop. The cereal was an instant hit. Delicious. Fun to eat. And I can testify to the ad claim that the cereal DID make those sounds as I ate them a few times for my before-school breakfast.
Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes remains an American as well as worldwide favorite among cereals. ‘Tony, the tiger,’ is seen on their boxes as well as television commercials as the cereal spokes tiger, whos famous roar, “Theyyy-rree Grrreat,” has been seeded in the minds of American consumers who swear by Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. Today in 2011, the government has really governed Kellogg’s and other cereal companies of their usage of sugar so kids can eat a healthy breakfast. Mom’s still trust Tony, the tiger when it comes to good cereal.
Frosty O’s by General Mills was an early attempt to capitalize on cartoon celebrities such as Tennessee Tuxedo, an early Saturday morning favorite with the voice of Don Adams. Frosty O’s had a superb run as a cereal, but with the ‘cereal giants,’ Kellogg’s, Quaker and Post, General Mills sadly cut their losses and discontinued Frosty O’s. I recall an early television ad for Frosty O’s with Tennessee Tuxedo with Tuxedo’s famous line, “Frosty--O’s are for breakfast,” he said to his walrus friend, Chumley.
Post Crispy Critters were an early smash when it came to new cereals. The cereal was in the shape of animals just like the American icon, Animal Crackers, except bigger. And to get in on the cartoon boom of Saturday mornings, Post used Linus, The Lion Hearted, a children’s favorite cartoon character on their box as well as their early television ads. I have had Crispy Critters. And they are wonderful.
General Mills scored big with Count Chocula, a friendly, harmless vampire who was featured on the box. That makes a lot of sense. Featuring the character who the cereal is named for. The cereal is purely-chocolate flavored and if eaten with a slice of toast, milk, orange juice, this makes a complete breakfast says the federal government who ruled that in all cereal ads on television, a picture of toast, milk, orange juice had to be in the shot with the named cereal in order for the verbiage, Count Chocula, make it a part of your complete breakfast. Regulations will be the death of us.
Corn Bursts by General Mills, what can be said about this vintage cereal? The box looked good and unimposing with its green and yellow colors. Not flashy in any way. No athlete or movie star on the box, just corn bursts. I never heard of corn bursts until I did my research for this story. This cereal must have ‘burst on the scene,’ only to have its popularity balloon ‘burst’ with lack of sales.
Quaker’s Cap’n Crunch was a superstar upon its introduction to American breakfast tables. Talk about an emcee, Cap’n Crunch rivaled Tony, The Tiger one time, in popularity. And still holds a steady course in annual cereal sales. The red box with Crunch’s ship and photo on the box is an eye-catcher for the shopper and the package artists at Quaker need to be commended on their fine work. I have enjoyed Cap’n Crunch on occasion. And it is fantastic.
Cheerios was and still is a great food staple among American and worldwide consumers, Delicious and good for people who have heart trouble. Cheerios is a multi-talented cereal. I found this vintage box of Cereals (in the artwork to the right) where comic books and toys were advertised on the back of the box to get children to beg their mom’s to get the cereal to they could get the free toys. This marketing strategy worked like a well-made Swiss watch. Cheerios is still going strong in 2011. And probably always will.
Cheerios was not about to be left behind in the cartoon celebrity endorsements. Another box of Cheerios I found featured Bullwinkle, the moose, on it’s box. Children everywhere loved Bullwinkle and Rocky whose Saturday morning cartoon show was ‘gangbusters’ in the ratings for children under the age of 12 on Saturday morning television-viewing. Bullwinkle might have been a klutz, but he knew how to sell cereal.
Post Cocoa Pebbles, featured Fred Flintstone of The Flintstones, another American cartoon icon. Was it sheer coincidence that the cereal, cocoa ‘PEBBLES,’ was named for Fred and Wilma’s cute daughter, Pebbles? Hmm. Later on, Fred Flintstone and his bud, Barney Rubble fought over Fred’s Cocoa Pebbles and Fruity Pebbles in television ad campaigns that sold millions of boxes of these fine cereals.
General Mills came out swinging when they brought Cocoa Puffs to the market. I found an early photo of a box of Cocoa Puffs without the goofy bird that later helped to sell tons of Cocoa Puffs in television ads when he would take a bite of the cereal and go wild and say over and over, “I’m cuck-oo for cocoa puffs,” which stayed in the memories of the television viewer all the way to the grocery store where they bought, of course, Cocoa Puffs. A great gimmick using a wild bird to sell cereal.
My All-Time Favorite of All the Cereals is:
KELLOGG’S CORN FLAKES, with it’s red and white box with the silhouette of the rooster that has evolved over the years, but the cereal has not changed in the least. Filled with daily vitamins, nutrients, and things to help you grow stronger and healthier. That was Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. Nothing fancy. Not even one superstar from Hollywood on the box. I did though remember watching a black and white television ad with Buddy “Jed Clampett” Ebsen and Irene “Granny” Ryan of the Beverly Hillbillies, telling how Kellogg’s Corn Flakes (at that time) was a good deal for the money and good too, as they agreed. Regardless of who said what about Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, the folks at Kellogg’s, Battle Creek, Michigan, can be super-proud for all the young people and adults they have helped grow into healthy Americans just by having Kellogg’s Corn Flakes as part of their balanced breakfast.
I would tell you more, but I saw this coming in mid-story.
I am starving to death for some cereal.
It doesn't matter. I will settle for any type and flavor.
Can I hitch a ride from any of you to my local grocery store?
Well that was not fun. Standing on the roadside with my thumb up hoping that some good-hearted driver would see the hungry look on my face, stop, and like the good samaritan, pick me up so I could ride to my nearest Food Galaxy Store for some Kellogg's Corn Flakes. But noooooo, the cars just whizzed on by as if I were not standing there. I tell you, the dust and sand in my eyes didn't help much either.
So, to get some Kellogg's Corn Flakes, guess I will just have to walk the harsh quarter-mile to the Food Galaxy and get my beloved box of Kellogg's Corn Flakes.
Hope the folks at Battle Creek, Michigan, where Kellogg's is located, will appreciate my devotion to their tasty product.