Is the best part of waking up cereal and milk in your cup? Turns out, dry cereal has quite a fascinating history, and while it’s common today, it’s also a surprisingly new invention. Before modern times, dry cereal wasn’t really a thing. Folks might enjoy warm porridge or oatmeal, but not the cereal staples that now fill the breakfast aisle.
Cereal offers a relatively nutritious, easy-to-make breakfast, but it was invented as a digestive aid. In 1863, James Caleb Jackson, a diet guru, invented a kind of granola, which is often considered to be the first manufactured cereal. Before being eaten, however, it had to be soaked in milk for several hours. In 1877, John Harvey Kellogg devised a similar cereal, which he dubbed Granula, which is not the same as granola. Kellogg also developed and patented tempering process vital for making flaked cereals. Thus, Corn Flakes were born.
One of Kellogg’s patients, C.W. Post, also jumped into the nascent cereal market with Grape Nuts. To this day, Post and Kellogg’s rank as two of the largest breakfast cereal producers in the world. In the early 20th century, more cereals were imagined, including Wheaties and Rice Krispies. Cheerios, another classic cereal, was invented in the 1940s.
During the baby boom that followed World War II, demand for kid-friendly foods skyrocketed. Further, an increasing number of people were leaving farms and heading to offices and factories for work. With folks pulled away from home, demand for quick and easy breakfast cereals rose.
As modern society unfolded, cereal companies continued to expand their lineup. They also targeted kids with sweeter cereals like Count Chocula. Despite cries that cereals have too much sugar, revenue in today’s breakfast cereal market is enormous, amounting to about $21 billion in 2022.