February 21, 2023

Four Key Moments That Shaped American Breakfast Cereal History

Two bowls of Honey Bunches of Oats with Real Strawberries cereal sit on a table surrounded by containers holding orange juice, milk, and fruit.

The glossy, colorful displays of today’s cereal aisle can make it easy to assume this convenient breakfast staple is a modern-day phenomenon geared toward Americans’ on-the-go lifestyle. But cereal’s legacy goes back generations, predating the telephone and the automobile.

The year 2023 marks cereal’s 160th birthday, a fitting occasion to look back at four of the biggest moments in American breakfast cereal’s history and how Post® played a role.

1. The invention of cereal (1863)

Cereal made its debut in 1863, a product resulting from a push for more nutritious breakfast food options rich in grains and fiber. In the years leading up to the invention, an American breakfast consisted primarily of meat.

Our roots in cereal date back nearly as long, to 1895, when Charles W. Post crafted his first batch of the cereal beverage Postum in a barn in Battle Creek, Michigan. Our first ready-to-eat cereal, Grape-Nuts® cereal, came two years later. Of course, we can’t pass up the opportunity to point out this classic fan favorite cereal is still on the shelf today.

2. The introduction of cereal mascots (1902)

Another prominent face of cereal is the industry’s iconic mascots. It just makes sense that the breakfast cereals kids love pair with equally lovable mascots. While Sunny Jim, the first character to promote a cereal brand all the way back in 1902, might not ring a bell, we’re guessing the phrase Yabba Dabba Doo!TM brings ”The Flintstones” characters and our PEBBLES cereal to mind.

In an out-of-the-box and dare we say, brilliant move, Post secured the innovative licensing rights from Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc., now part of Warner Bros., and used the popular Flintstones characters to rebrand our Sugar Rice Krinkles cereal. This marked the first time a cereal brand was created based on a media character.

Since their 1971 debut, Fruity PEBBLES and Cocoa PEBBLES have been synonymous with PEBBLESand Fred Flintstone.

THE FLINTSTONES and all related characters and elements © & ™ Hanna-Barbera. (s23)

3. Marjorie Post takes over (1914)

Marjorie Post took over as head of the company when her father passed away in 1914. While Marjorie was just 27 when she inherited Postum Cereal Company, she already had many years of experience under her belt.

Marjorie’s father started taking her to board meetings at the tender age of 10. Those meetings and subsequent discussions with her father about the company left Marjorie with a head for business. She shepherded the company through a public offering in 1922, retaining majority ownership, a name change to General Foods in 1929, and a series of acquisitions.

While there’s no denying her business savvy, Marjorie’s early lessons with her father also instilled in her a belief that wealth comes with a responsibility to help others. Marjorie was a respected philanthropist who supported many causes ranging from the American Red Cross to the Salvation Army to the National Symphony Orchestra.

Her service-oriented values are foundational to Post Consumer Brands®. Her legacy lives on via Post’s commitment to making the world a better place by investing in positive change for people and our communities.

Check out this article to learn more about Marjorie Post and her impact within and beyond the cereal industry.

4. Bagged cereal packaging (1966)

While we’re on the topic of strokes of genius, credit must be given to Malt-O-Meal® and its bagged packaging. In 1966, Malt-O-Meal® took the bold step of ditching the traditional cereal box. Its pared-down bagged packaging uses less plastic, creates less mess and keeps cereal fresh longer.

Malt-O-Meal® upped its game with its 1998 introduction of a resealable cereal bag. We’re proud that innovators like Malt-O-Meal®, now MOM Brands, are part of the Post family. In fact, we’ve got a lot of exciting plans to innovate our packaging over the next few years. By 2025, all Post cereal packaging will be 100% recyclable.

Get a close-up look at the history of Post cereals and other key events that led to the creation of your favorite breakfast cereals using our interactive timeline.