The rising popularity of breakfast cereal (1967)
In the beginning was Shredded Wheat.
Today, there are Alpha Bits and Apple Jacks, Bran Buds, Bran Flakes and Raisin Bran, Cheerios, Corn Chex, Rice Chex, and Wheat Chex, Cocoa Krispies, Cocoa Puffs, Concentrate, Corn Crackos, Corn Flakes, Corn Nix, Crispy Critters, Froot Loops, Frosty O’s, Grape Nuts and Grape Nuts Flakes, Honeycomb, Krumbles, Lucky Charms, OKs, Puffa-Puffa Rice, Quake and Quisp, Rice Krispies, Special K, Stars, Sugar Crisp, Sugar Frosted Flakes, Sugar Jets, Sugar Pops, Sugar Smacks, Sugar Sparkled Rice Krinkles, Total, Trix, Wheat Stax, and, of course, Wheaties — to name a few of the breakfast cereals now on the market.
The list amounts to second-degree assault on the language, but it adds up to about 1.2 billion pounds of cleverly disguised corn, oats, rice, and wheat that will be sold to Americans this year as breakfast food. Americans, obviously, buy a lot of ready-to-eat cereals.
Retail sales of dry cereals will total about $660 million this year. The business can be very profitable: even a one percent share of that market can generate something on the order of $1 million in pretax profits.
With sales up 43 percent in the past five years, the dry cereal business has been one of the fastest-growing segments of the food industry. It is no coincidence that this growth has paralleled a surge in the number of very young Americans. Children consume about half the cereal eaten in the US.
The industry’s ability to reach this market so well rests on two things: persuading mothers of the nutritional value that is built into even the most ridiculous names on those gaudy packages; and persuading the children themselves, on afternoon and Saturday morning television shows, to demand cereals featuring “go power” or “crunchability.”
This bifold approach has sold a lot of cereal. It has also enabled the manufacturers to promote the uniqueness of their brands, and thus insulate themselves from private labeling and price competition that raise havoc with other package groceries.
Vintage Post cereals
Post Toasties corn flakes, Alpha-Bits, Grape Nuts, Raisin Bran, Corn Flakes & Blueberries, Honeycomb, Sugar Crisp
Post Alpha Bits cereal: Alphabet letters you could eat
Vintage Kellogg’s breakfast cereals
OKs, Concentrate, Krumbles, Shredded Wheat, Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies, Frosted Flakes, Special K, Froot Loops, 40% Bran Flakes, Product 19, Puffa Puffa Rice, Raisin Bran, Cocoa Krispies, Apple Jacks, Sugar Smacks, Sugar Pops
MORE FROM KELLOGG’S: The original Rice Krispies Treats recipe & their delicious history
ALSO SEE: Giant Raisin Bran cookies recipe (1998)
Classic Quaker, Nabisco & Ralston Purina cereals
Quaker: Cap’n Crunch, Quisp, Quake
Nabisco: Spoon Size Shredded Wheat, All Family Team flakes
Ralston Purina: Wheat Chex, Rice Chex
What’s new? Life cereal is new! (1962)
Life has the most useful protein ever in a ready-to-eat cereal! We useful proteins proudly present the happiest tasting protein cereal ever created!
You’ll love life! Now from oats… nature’s richest protein grain… Quaker brings you Life!
Fewer calories than a slice of dry toast (and you don’t even have to add sugar)
Quaker’s two Diet Frosted cereals have fewer calories per serving than any other kind of cereal! A full cup of Diet Frosted Rice Puffs has only 56 calories; Wheat Puffs only 51. What’s more, Diet Frosted is already sweetened to adult tastes. But not with sugar.
“I feel thinner already”
Discover Team Flakes, the first cereal to blend four grains for flavor – Nabisco (1965)
Popular vintage General Mills cereals in 1967
Cheerios, Wheaties, Kix, Trix; Jets, Sugared Frosty O’s, Total, Cocoa Puffs, Lucky Charms
MORE FROM GENERAL MILLS: Hot buttered Cheerios recipe (1982)
Now there’s a cereal you can stack: Vintage Stax cereal (1966)
Once you stop snacking and start eating, you’ll find there’s more to STAX than stacking. new wheat Stax really taste good. They’re bite-size chunks of toasted whole wheat. Crunchier because they’re toasted on bottom, top, sides — even inside. They’re the toastiest, tastiest, crunchiest, stackiest cereal you’ve ever tasted.
General Mills cereals for the 1960s
Big new G on the box means… very special Goodness from General Mills
- Cheerios: The goodness of toasted oats
- Wheaties: The goodness of toasted whole wheat flakes
- Trix: The goodness of fruit flavor corn puffs
- Cocoa Puffs: The goodness of chocolate flavor corn puffs
- Jets: The goodness of sugar-toasted oats and wheat
- Hi-Pro: The goodness of high-protein flakes
- Kix: The goodness of crispy corn puffs
- Frosty-Os: The goodness of sugar-charged oats
- Pick-a-Pack: The goodness in every pack you pick
Breakfast cereals become the latest battlefield
From LIFE magazine, August 21, 1970
The latest — and boldest — salvo to be aimed at the nation’s eating habits came from Robert B. Choate Jr., a wealthy maverick who has become a food expert. Armed with a large chart and a huge bundle of statistical material, Choate appeared before a Senate subcommittee and proceeded to demolish, as best he could, one of America’s most cherished ideals.
He claimed that most of that vast mountain of flaked, shredded, tinted, rolled, puffed, popped and frosted wheat, oats, corn and rice that millions of American kids chomp through each morning is without merit as food.
Even with milk added, he continued, the average cereal fails as a complete meal, and most of them are so deficient in nutrition that they are just so many “empty calories.” Finally, he complained bitterly of the way cereals are “huckstered” to children on the Saturday morning TV cartoon and adventure shows.
The cereal manufacturers hit back hard and fast. They flatly denied Choate’s charges and maintained that “breakfast cereals are good foods.” Besides, they said, cereals provide a delicious and filling breakfast which kids love.
Choate was a little hard on cereals. Dieticians have never considered cereals as complete meals, and they usually reserve the term “empty calories” for foods like sugar and alcohol, which provide absolutely no nutritional value other than calories. Cereals do contain B vitamins and some protein, and a breakfast of enriched cereal, milk and a glass of orange juice probably is adequate for a small child.
Of course, the fact of the matter is that many cereal lovers are not small children — or even teenagers. Millions of adults, brought up on the breakfast of heroes, champions and spy-catchers, still start off each day with an inspirational bowlful.
And the manufacturers might console themselves with the thought that no amount of congressional testimony is likely to shake their deeply held faith. Nutrition experts may stop eating cereals for breakfast. But not nostalgic would-be champions.