Corn Flakes – the best-selling breakfast cereal in the United States. You know them. You love them. But do you know how they were created? Check out this article to learn the surprising story behind the accidental invention of this iconic Kellogg’s product.
As with many notable inventions, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes were created partially by accident. Though the product may not be what the Kellogg brothers were intending to make at the time, their stroke of culinary luck led to the advent of The Kellogg Company and America’s best-selling breakfast cereal.
Before the Kellogg name was associated with cereal and snacks, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his brother Will Kieth (WK) Kellogg were well-known as the operators of the Battle Creek Sanitarium. This so-called “health spa” catered to helping clients tend to a variety of ailments. Treatments included hot and cold water baths, hydro-therapy, electric-current therapy, light therapy, as well as exercise and massage regimens.
The basis of these treatments was inspired by the brothers’ commitment to their faith in the Seventh Day Adventist fundamentalist church. One of the main principles of the religion entailed maintaining the purity of one’s bodily temple. For the Kellogg’s, this meant adhering to a strict “healthy” diet including lots of water and vegetables and discluding substances like alcohol and caffeine.
To support their ideal diets, the brothers started concocting different healthful foods that they and their patients could eat regularly. The goal was to avoid fat, grease, salt, and spices and focus on simple ingredients that were good for the digestive system. So, Dr. John began experimenting by mixing and baking flour, oats, and cornmeal.
As the legend goes, it was during one of these afternoons of cooking that the Kellogg brothers were called away from their kitchen in the midst of mixing a batch of wheat-based cereal and later returned to see that the dough had fermented. When they rolled the dough into thin sheets and baked it, they were positively surprised to find that it turned into perfect crispy and tasty flakes. Over the years, WK continued experimenting with the recipe and eventually found that corn created even more delicious and crunchy flakes than wheat.
The creation of this flaked cereal occurred alongside the booming of the Industrial Revolution – a time where individuals became busier and needed quicker and easier-to-eat breakfast options. The Kellogg brothers seized this timely opportunity and began to mass-market their product in 1906. Conflict arose, however, when WK started adding sugar to the cereal to make it more palatable, though Dr. John was avidly opposed.
To settle the dispute, WK purchased the rights to use the Kellogg name from his brother after a long legal battle and subsequently founded The Kellogg Cereal Company. The product soon came to boast several “firsts” in the cereal world, including offering the “Funny Jungleland Moving Pictures Booklet” as a prize to encourage sales, and introducing Cornelius (Corny) Rooster as a mascot. Though the Corn Flakes we know today aren’t exactly the health food they were initially designed to be, their success as one of the most iconic and best-selling cereals in the US proves that they were an invention the breakfast world is certainly thankful for.
As the Kellogg brothers discovered, you never know when or how your next great innovation will come to life. If you have an idea you’d like to explore, contact us to let us know how we can help (even if you end up creating something you didn’t expect).
To learn more about Custom Powder Systems and the art of engineering, sign up for our newsletter.