Necessity may be the mother of invention, but accidents seem to be where the real payoff is. Plenty of useful products were invented by accident: penicillin, Super Glue, the pacemaker and the microwave oven.
Add to that list corn flakes, a staple of American breakfast. Corn flakes were created by Dr. John Kellogg, who ran the Western Health Reform Institute, later known as the Battle Creek (Mich.) Sanitarium. Kellogg kept his patients on a strict vegetarian diet. In May of 1894, Kellogg was trying to develop a digestible bread-substitute using boiled wheat.
Just after the concoction began to boiling, Kellogg was called away to perform an emergency operation. When he returned to the now cooled pot and put the mixture through the rolling process he discovered that each grain of wheat became a large, thin flake. Kellogg’s brother, Will Keith, convinced the doctor to serve the flakes, which were an instant hit. In fact, the flakes were so popular the Kellogg brothers began shipping them to patients who had left the sanitarium but were still jonesing for flakes.
The Kellogg’s experimented with corn, rice and wheat flakes, and the first corn flakes were available commercially in 1898. They were called Sanitas Corn Flakes, (presumably after the sanitarium) and produced by John Kellogg’s Sanitas Food Co. But Dr. Kellogg had no interest in the food business, so in 1906 his brother Will took over the operations and formed his own company, the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flakes Co. The name of the company was changed to the Kellogg Co. in 1922.
Did you know?
- Americans bought 2.7 billion boxes of ready-to-eat cereal in 2006, making cereal the third most purchased supermarket item after carbonated beverages and bread.
- In 2008, Kellogg had net earnings of $1.15 billion.
- C.W. Post was a patient at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Kellogg’s flakes stoked his own entrepreneurial spirit. In 1895 he created Postum, a cereal-based coffee substitute. In 1897 he created Grape-Nuts cereal, and in 1904 he introduced the public to Elijah’s Manna, which would later be called Post Toasties. By the way, when Post invented Grape-Nuts it contained maltose, which at the time was known as “grape sugar.” He combined “grape” from grape sugar with the nutty flavor of the cereal to come up with the name Grape-Nuts.