Cereals: The Foods that Make Billions
The Kellogg’s corporation – in discovering how to transform cheap nutrient-poor food into billions in profits – deserve all the credit for launching the processed food revolution.
Dr John Havery Kellogg, a teetotal, vegetarian and Seventh Day Adventist, was the original inventor of a dry tasteless corn cereal he fed patients in his Battle Creek Michigan sanatorium. He opposed his entrepreneur brother’s plan to add sugar to the cornflakes, so W.K. launched Kellogg’s Corporation on his own in 1908. His decision to advertise his product in the Ladies Home Journal instantly transformed Kellogg’s into a global brand.
What W.K. Kellogg did, in essence, was to strip all the nutrition and fiber out of 75 cents worth of corn and sell it for $12. However what he was really selling the public was a lifestyle – by convincing them they didn’t have time to prepare and eat a cooked breakfast.
The advent of TV advertising after World War II would guarantee that empty calorie prepared breakfast cereal would replace bacon and eggs in the vast majority of US and British homes.
In 1968, a congressional committee chaired by for senator and presidential candidate George McGovern would draw international attention to the adverse effects of feeding children high sugar nutrition-poor breakfasts. The resulting corporate backlash from the hippy subculture would lead to the emergence of “granola,” “muesli,” and other cold “health food” breakfasts. Kellogg’s and its competitors would respond by reducing the sugar content of their breakfast food and spraying them with vitamins and minerals.
In 2006, Britain passed a law banning ads for convenience foods high in sugar, salt and saturated fat during children’s programming. Kellogg’s responded by introducing breakfast cereals that were higher in fiber and and whole grains.