Breakfast Cereals

Breakfast cereals may be classified as hot cereals, requiring some preparation such as the addition of hot water, or ready-to-eat (RTE) cereals, usually consumed with cold milk. RTE cereals are so-called because they are precooked using one of a number of processes. Corn, wheat, rice, oats, or other grains may be puffed, flaked, shredded, or extruded; coated with sugars; enriched with micronu-trients; or enhanced with fruits to provide a convenient, nutritious, and readily digestible breakfast food.

The history of breakfast cereals parallels the growth of the Kellogg Company and the Postum Cereal Company, the latter becoming the nucleus of General Foods (1,2). Health and nutrition were the driving forces in the development of breakfast cereals. At the turn of the century, people were looking for lighter, more digestible foods as they moved into less physically demanding work environments. The heavy fried and starchy foods of the pioneer days became a major cause of stomach disorders among the sedentary segment of the population (2).

About this time Dr. J. H. Kellogg was superintendent of the Battle Creek sanitarium. Kellogg, with his brother W. K. Kellogg, developed the first flaked cereal as a health food to feed the sanitarium patients. C. W. Post was a patient at the sanitarium and was most intrigued at the commercial possibilities of the health foods being served there. When he regained his health, Post went on his own to develop the cereal products that are still known today as Grape Nuts and Post Toasties.

From humble beginnings, breakfast cereals became a large industry in the United States. In 1987 it was a $5.3 billion business, with 90% coming from the RTE segment and 10% from the hot cereal category. The per capita consumption of breakfast cereals in 1987 was 11.7 lb for RTE and 3.6 lb for hot cereals (3).

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