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Why Was Cereal Invented?

Why Was Cereal Invented? Let’s find out! Below we dive into everything you want to know about the origins of breakfast cereal.

A Short History of Breakfast Cereals

You may know cereal as a sugary, sweet snack or as a favorite kid’s breakfast food. As it happens, your morning bowl of breakfast cereal has a colorful history that’s over 100 years in the making.

Breakfast cereal was born in the 1800s in health spas (at the time called “sanitariums”). What began as an intentionally bland, boring digestive aid went on to take the world by storm. But who invented it? And why was cereal invented? Let’s dig in.

Who Invented Cereal?

The first cold breakfast cereal was created in 1863 by farmer-turned-nutritionist, James Caleb Jackson. Jackson was the owner of a sanitarium in Dansville, New York, where he created the first dry whole-grain cereal made from baked, crumbled graham flour and bran. 

Jackson called his invention “Granula”. While it did call for soaking in milk to make it easier to chew, Granula was the first cold cereal of its kind that didn’t require cooking. Jackson’s cereal was a hit, laying the groundwork for other cold cereals we enjoy today, including crispy rice, shredded wheat, and cornflakes.

Speaking of cornflakes: John Harvey Kellogg, the inventor of Kellog’s Corn Flakes cereal (check out Why Corn Flakes Were Invented) paid a visit to Jackson’s sanitarium in 1878. A fellow sanitarium director, Kellogg was interested in Dr. Jackson’s regimen of fresh air, exercise, and a simple diet of whole foods. Jackson’s cereal inspired Kellogg to create a version of “Granula”, later changed to “granola” after Jackson successfully sued Kellogg over the use of the name.

Why Was Breakfast Cereal Invented?

Jackson’s work was heavily influenced by the likes of Sylvester Graham, though not quite as religiously zealous. Like Graham, both Jackson and Kellogg were promoters of “clean eating”, focused on the health benefits of a plain diet of whole foods like vegetables, meats, and whole grains. This led Jackson to invent Granola as a bland, inexpensive health food that helped with digestion. 

Meanwhile, John Kellogg was a director at the Battlecreek Sanitarium in Michigan in the 1870s, where he and his brother Will worked to invent new kinds of food for their patients. Their goal was to also create foods that were easy to digest and palatable for those who struggled to chew. 

Corn Flakes were the answer, and the Kellogg brothers would go on to popularize dry breakfast cereal. After the success of Jackson’s Granula, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes completely changed the American breakfast game and became one of the most, if not the most, popular breakfast cereals in the world.

Sources: Mental FlossDansville Area Historical SocietyInvent.org

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