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Kellogg's Corn Flakes
What would breakfast be without Kellogg’s corn flakes?
The inventor of this classic cold cereal, eaten around the
world every day for nearly a century, was Will Keith Kellogg,
born on April 7, 1860, in Battle Creek, Michigan.
Kellogg was educated as far as the sixth grade. He was a
hard worker who, as a youth, held jobs as a stockboy and then
as a traveling salesman of household brooms for his father’s
broom-making business. His older brother John Harvey Kellogg
was a doctor, rising to the rank of physician-in-chief at
a world-famous local hospital and health spa called the Battle
Creek Sanitarium. Will Kellogg eventually went to work at
the sanitarium alongside his brother. He began as a clerk
and later became a bookkeeper and file manager.
At the sanitarium, Will became acutely interested in the
world of medicine and learned a great deal from his brother,
a vegetarian, about good nutrition and wholegrain foods. He
began helping John conduct research and develop healthy diets
for patients. He was in the process of boiling wheat in 1894
in an attempt to create an easily digestible bread substitute
when he came across a discovery that would lead to Kellogg’s
He had boiled some wheat with the intention of making dough
with it and accidentally let it stand for several hours. The
wheat became softened, tempered. He decided to put it through
the regular rolling process anyway for baking. When he rolled
it out, however, he noticed that the individual wheat berries
in the mash would roll out into flat, wide flakes. He figured
he’d bake them and see what happened. The result was
a crisp, tasty, easy-to-eat cereal product. He and his brother
decided to serve the flakes to patients to see what they thought.
The patients loved them – so much, in fact, that they
began asking the brothers to ship packages of the flakes,
which the Kelloggs called “Granose,” to them after
they left the sanitarium. They did so on a small scale, but
meanwhile the younger Kellogg had tried the technique with
corn and refined what he believed to be a superior tasting,
crunchy product. In 1898 he and John started the Sanitas Food
Company as a mail-order operation to develop and sell corn
flakes cereal. But Will had bigger plans – to turn his
corn flake business into a large-scale, international, packaged
In 1906, he established the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flakes
Company -- the world’s first ready-to-eat cereal company.
He was a gifted marketer and promoter, and in his first year,
he shipped 175,000 cases of corn flakes. Within just a few
years, Kellogg's Corn Flakes were a household name and could
be found in nearly every kitchen in the United States.
He quickly began adding to his product line, with Kellogg's
Bran Flakes in 1915, Kellogg's All-Bran in 1916 and Kellogg's
Rice Krispies in 1928. He renamed his business the W.K. Kellogg
Company in 1922 and expanded operations to Canada and Australia
in 1924, followed by Europe and Asia.
Today the company operates under two divisions, Kellogg
USA and Kellogg International, with manufacturing operations
in 20 countries and distribution in 160. In addition to its
broad cereal line, today Kellogg’s also sells Pop-Tarts,
Eggo waffles and pancakes, the Nutri-Grain cereal bar line,
and a variety of other snacks.
Kellogg retired as the company's president in 1929 but stayed
on as chairman of the board until 1946. At this stage in his
life, he turned his focus to philanthropic activities, establishing
one of the nation’s most renowned charitable institutions,
the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, in 1934 with an initial donation
of $66 million. He was a true believer in empowering individuals
to help themselves, and had begun his charity work in 1925
with the formation of the Fellowship Corporation, which helped
to build an agricultural school, experimental farm and reforestation
project. In 1930, he was named a delegate to the White House
Conference on Child Health and Protection by President Herbert
Hoover, and established later that year the W.K. Kellogg Child
Welfare Foundation. He died in Battle Creek on Oct. 6, 1951.