Back in the late 19th century, a team of Seventh-day Adventists worked feverishly to create new foods that adhered to the vegetarian dogma of the church. Members of the group experimented with a number of different grains, including wheat, oats, rice, barley, and corn. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the superintendent of The Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan and an Adventist, used these recipes for his patients. His diet also eliminated alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine and consisted entirely of bland foods. A follower of Sylvester Graham, the inventor of graham crackers and graham bread, Kellogg believed that spicy or sweet foods would increase passions, and we certainly didn’t want any of those.

An accidental eureka! moment came when Kellogg and his younger brother Will Keith left some cooked wheat to sit while they attended to the sanitarium business. When they returned, they found that the wheat was soggy and stale. Being prudent with their budget, they decided to somehow use it anyway. They forced it through rollers, hoping to obtain long sheets of the dough. To their surprise, what they found instead were flakes, which they toasted and, prudent still, served to their patients. The flakes of grain, which the brothers called granose (as opposed to stale wheat flakes), turned out to be very popular among the patients. The Kelloggs filed for a patent for “Flaked Cereals and Process of Preparing Same” on May 31, 1895, and received it the following year.

In 1906, Will Keith Kellogg, who served as the business manager of the sanitarium, decided to mass-market the new food. At his new company, Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, he added sugar to the flakes to make them taste better. This naturally annoyed his brother the Adventist who preferred bland. But Will steamed ahead, undeterred. And he came up with another revolutionary idea – a special prize, the Funny Jungleland Moving Pictures Booklet, free to anyone who bought two boxes of the cereal. He offered this same premium for 22 years. At the same time, Kellogg didn’t rest on his Wheaties. He continued to experiment with new grain cereal possibilities trying to come up with that special cereal that would go snap, crackle and pop. He did, and created his next SRO cereal in 1928. And surely Fruit Loops were already there somewhere in the back of his mind.

I prefer dead writers because you don’t run into them at parties. ― Fran Lebowitz


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