Today’s show is focused on fun facts about cereal. Growing up, cereal was a huge treat. My parents wanted us to have a balanced breakfast and they were also budget conscious. As a result, we had an endless supply of porridge and oatmeal. I hated both. I would often just eat leftovers from dinner the night before.
During the summer, I would long for the sugary colorful cereal I’d see advertised during cartoons. I remember going to my grandma’s house growing up. She always had a selection of cereals. It was an amazing moment in time. I could enjoy as much Apple Jacks as I could stomach. Grandma also had a special drawer in her basement that had happy meal toys and cereal box toys that had accumulated over the years. She really knew the way to my heart with McDonald’s and cereal!
There were rare moments when visiting Grandma over the summer. If I was super lucky, I’d get to open a fresh box of cereal from the store. That meant the prize was still inside. Finally I was able to experience what the kids in the cereal ads got to experience. Amazing sugary cereal AND a fun prize. Could childhood get any better?
If you haven’t put two and two together yet, today is all about cereal. So grab a favorite box, your spoon and some milk and let’s dig in!
Brief History of Cereal
As always, we have to go back in time and start at the beginning to really understand where we are today.
Breakfast cereal as we know it today got its start in the mid 1800s. James Caleb Jackson ran a medical sanitarium in western New York. He was religiously conservative and was also a vegetarian. He created a breakfast cereal from a whole wheat dough. Once the dough dried, they broke it into pieces. These chunks of cereal were so hard that they had to be soaked in milk overnight. He called it granula.
John Harvey Kellogg iterated on this idea. Kellogg was a physician in a health spa in Michigan. He made his own version of the cereal and called it granola. One of Kellogg’s former patients, C.W. Post took this same idea and created grape nuts.
John Kellogg and his brother Will, continued to work on cereal. Instead of dense chunks of wheat cereal, they developed a way to make a flaked cereal. They called this creation, “Corn Flakes.”
C.W. Post didn’t want to be outdone by the Kellogg brothers. He decided to develop his own cereal. This was the first major competition to corn flakes. I seriously laughed out loud when I saw the name of their corn flake competitor. Kelloggs stuck with something original and descriptive, Corn Flakes.” Post decided to name their product Elijah’s Manna. Obviously these cereal companies had strong religious roots, but this pushed things too far. A number of religious groups got very loud about Post’s choice of names for their product. Post caved to the pressure and eventually renamed the product, “Post Toasties.” Much better!
Toys in Cereal
Let’s talk about prizes and cereal for a minute. Kellogg’s was the first cereal brand to include a prize with the purchase of cereal. In 1909 customers were given The Funny Jungle Moving Pictures Book when they bought 2 boxes of corn flakes. This promotion was a huge success. By 1912, Kellogg’s distributed 2.5 million copies of the Jungleland books.
It didn’t take long for all of the other cereal producers to follow Kellogg’s example. Over the years, cereal producers had promotions that highlighted Star Trek, the Beatles, Ghostbusters, GI Joe and more. They offered candy, iron on patches, small toys and offers for shirts. One of the more bizarre offers I saw was a 1974 offer on Cherrios boxes. They offered a terrarium for moms and a mystery garden for kids. You had to show proof of purchase and pay a small fee. Other cereals also offered terrariums.. Must have been a thing in the 70s.
One of the coolest cereal prizes came in 1996. Chex released the game Chex Quest. It was a non violent first person shooter based on the popular and much more violent game, “Doom”. A team of developers was hired with a small budget of $500,000. However, the goal was to produce a game that would release in boxes of Chex cereal for free. The result was the average consumer could get a game valued around $30 for no additional cost.
You can download a newer version of Chex quest on their website. Still free and now it supports multiplayer. It is on Steam. If you are a gamer and like Steam, make sure you check this out.
Weird and Crazy Cereals
I love walking through the grocery store aisle today. We are in the golden age of cereal. There is always something crazy and colorful. Some of these cereals are amazing and others just don’t pan out. That isn’t unique to today. Throughout the past several decades we have seen some crazy cereals come and go.
In the 1980s Nerds cereal was a thing. It came in 2, technically 4 flavors. They contained two flavors in each box. In their advertising, they often asked, “Which side are you going to eat first?”
Urkel-Os were a thing in the 1990s. You know the show Family Matters? The one and only super nerd Steve Urkel. This was a complete dud as far as cereal goes. Family Matters ran on air between 1989 to 1998. The cereal didn’t even make it 1 year before it was yanked off shelves.
Sprinkle Spangles was another cereal of the 1990s. This was a sugar cookie flavored cereal in star shapes with sprinkles. What’s not to like. It was produced by General Mills and had a genie as a mascot. However, people complained that the cereal was too sweet. It was eventually discontinued.
After Lion King came out, someone had a brilliant idea of a new breakfast cereal. Kellogg’s produced a chocolate cereal with bug shaped marshmallows. The name? Mud and Bugs!
Kellogg’s had a nice mix of odd cereals. Another one was launched in 1978. It was called Crunchy Logs. They featured a beaver mascot named Bixby. The logs were sweetened corn and oat pieces.
Grins & Smiles & Giggles & Laughs was another interesting cereal. You had 4 characters, Grins, Smiles, Giggles and Laughs. It was a crunchy cereal that smiles back at you. The TV commercials were apparently quite the production. The characters would try to make a robot laugh. If it laughed, it would spit up boxes of cereal. It debuted in 1976.
Other Interesting Cereal Options:
- Freakies, produced in 1973
- Wackies were made in the 1960s
- Mr. T hit the shelves as a breakfast cereal in 1984.
- Crazy Cow cereal came on the scene in the 1970s. As the cereal sat in the milk, it turned the milk sweet.
- 7-Eleven sold Krusty-Os which was an exclusive cereal in 2007 in conjunction with the Simpsons movie.
- In the 1960s Kellogg’s produced OKs. Their mascot was a burly Scotsman. The box looks crazy and weird. Yogi Bear later became the OKs mascot. It was cereal that had O and K shapes.
- Fruit Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy were monster themed cereals released by General Mills. I’d love to see these make a Halloween comeback.
- Post introduced Corn Cracks in 1967.
- Powdered Donutz were introduced all the way back in 1928. I just had a variation of this a few months back when I purchased a box of Hostess Powdered Sugar Donut Cereal.
What is the craziest cereal you have ever tried? I was talking with a friend about doing an episode on Cereal. Furthermore, He mentioned there is a restaurant here in town that is all about cereal. Sure enough there are now restaurants that cater to cereal lovers. They boast a wide selection of cereals and flavored milks to wake up everyone’s inner child.
I’ll wrap up today with a few fun facts about cereal. However, if you like what you heard, make sure you leave a 5 star review wherever you get your podcasts. Feel free to continue the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and instagram @toastykettle.
Random Fun Facts:
- March 7th is national Cereal day
- 50% of Americans start their day with cereal
- The cereal industry uses 816 million pounds of cereal each year
- Americans consume 101 pounds, or 160 bowls, of cereal each year
- This next fact sounds like I spent a little too much time reading the back of a cereal box. The mascot for Cap’n Crunch is Horatio Magellan Crunch. His place of birth is Crunch Island in the Sea of Milk
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