A breakfast cereal (or just cereal) is a food made from processed grains that is often eaten with the first meal of the day. It is often eaten cold, usually mixed with milk (e.g. cow's milk, soy milk, rice milk, almond milk), juice, water, or yogurt, and sometimes fruit, but may be eaten dry. Some companies promote their products for the health benefits from eating oat-based and high-fiber cereals. Cereals may be fortified with vitamins. Some cereals are made with high sugar content. Many breakfast cereals are produced via extrusion. It is commonly eaten with a spoon.
Porridge was a traditional food in much of Northern Europe and Russia back to antiquity. Barley was a common grain used, though other grains and yellow peas could be used. In many modern cultures, porridge is still eaten as a breakfast dish.
United States 
Indians had found a way to make ground corn palatable; calling it "grits" and "hominy", Southern colonists adapted it as their main breakfast food. Northerners never took a liking to it. Both north and south colonists ate large quantities of fried bacon or ham for breakfast, often smothered in syrup.
19th century 
Food reformers in the 19th century called for cutting back on excessive meat consumption at breakfast. They explored numerous vegetarian alternatives. Late in the century the Seventh Day Adventists based in Michigan made these food reforms part of their religion, and indeed non-meat breakfasts were featured in their sanitariums and led to new breakfast cereals.
Cooked oatmeal 
Ferdinand Schumacher, a German immigrant, began the cereals revolution in 1854 with a hand oats grinder in the back room of a small store in Akron, Ohio. His German Mills American Oatmeal Company was the nation's first commercial oatmeal manufacturer. He marketed the product locally as a substitute for breakfast pork. Improved production technology (steel cutters, porcelain rollers, improved hullers), combined with an influx of German and Irish immigrants, quickly boosted sales and profits. In 1877, Schumacher adopted the Quaker symbol, the first registered trademark for a breakfast cereal. The acceptance of "horse food" for human consumption encouraged other entrepreneurs to enter the industry. Henry Parsons Crowell started operations in 1882, and John Robert Stuart in 1885. Crowell cut costs by consolidating every step of the processing—grading, cleaning, hulling, cutting, rolling, packaging, and shipping—in one factory operating at Ravenna, Ohio. Stuart operated mills in Chicago and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Stuart and Crowell combined in 1885 and initiated a price war. After a fire at his mill in Akron, Schumacher joined Stuart and Crowell to form the Consolidated Oatmeal Company. The American Cereal Company (Quaker Oats) created a cereal made from oats in 1877, manufacturing the product in Akron, Ohio. Separately, In 1888, a trust or holding company combined the nation's seven largest mills into the American Cereal Company using the Quaker Oats brand name. By 1900 technology, entrepreneurship, and the "Man in Quaker Garb"—a symbol of plain honesty and reliability—gave Quaker Oats a national market and annual sales of $10 million.
Early in the 20th century, the Quaker Oats Company (formed in 1901 to replace the American Cereal Company) jumped into the world market. Schumacher, the innovator; Stuart, the manager and financial leader and Crowell, the creative merchandiser, advertiser, and promoter, doubled sales every decade. Alexander Anderson's steam-pressure method of shooting rice from guns created puffed rice and puffed wheat. Crowell's intensive advertising campaign in the 1920s and 1930s featured promotions with such celebrities as Babe Ruth, Max Baer, and Shirley Temple. Sponsorship of the popular "Rin-Tin-Tin" and "Sergeant Preston of the Yukon" radio shows aided the company's expansion during the depression. Meat rationing during World War II boosted annual sales to $90 million, and by 1956 sales topped $277 million. By 1964 the firm sold over 200 products, grossed over $500 million, and claimed that 8 million people ate Quaker Oats each day. Expansion included acquisition of Aunt Jemima Mills Company in 1926, which continues as a leading brand of pancake mixes and syrup, the sport drink Gatorade in 1983, and in 1986, the Golden Grain Company, producers of Rice-A-Roni canned lunch food. In 2001 Quaker Oats was itself bought out by the much larger Pepsico.
The first breakfast cereal, Granula was invented in the United States in 1863 by James Caleb Jackson, operator of Our Home on the Hillside which was later replaced by the Jackson Sanatorium in Dansville, New York. The cereal never became popular since it was inconvenient, as the heavy bran nuggets needed soaking overnight before they were tender enough to eat. Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals have their beginnings in the vegetarian movement in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, which influenced members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the United States.
George H. Hoyt created Wheatena circa 1879, during an era when retailers would typically buy cereal (the most popular being cracked wheat, oatmeal, and cerealine) in barrel lots, and scoop it out to sell by the pound to customers. Hoyt, who had found a distinctive process of preparing wheat for cereal, sold his cereal in boxes, offering consumers a sanitary appeal.
Battle Creek: two Kelloggs and a Post 
Packaged breakfast cereals were considerably more convenient than a product that had to be cooked and combined with clever marketing, they became popular. The major innovations took place in Battle Creek, Michigan, a center of the Seventh Day Adventist church. New breakfast-food concepts came from John H. Kellogg and Charles W. Post. The cereal industry rose from a combination of sincere religious belief and commercial interest in health foods. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (1851-1943), son of an Adventist factory owner in Battle Creek was encouraged by his church to take an MD at the Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York City in 1875. He became medical superintendent at the Western Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek, established in 1866 by the Adventists to offer their natural remedies for illness. Many wealthy industrialists came to Kellogg's sanitarium for recuperation and rejuvenation. They were accustomed to breakfast of ham, eggs, sausages, fried potatoes, hot biscuits, hotcakes, and coffee. In Battle Creek they found fresh air, exercise, rest, "hydrotherapy," a strict vegetarian diet, and abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea. Kellogg experimented with granola; it resembled toasted bread crumbs. He boiled some wheat, rolled it into thin films, and baked the resulting flakes in the oven; he acquired a patent in 1891. In 1895 he launched Cornflakes, which overnight captured a national market. Soon there were forty rival manufacturers in the Battle Creek area. His brother William K. Kellogg (1860-1951) was a private and humorless man who had dropped out of high school and stood in the shadow of flamboyant John. William, after working many years for his brother, in 1906, broke away, bought the corn flakes rights from his brother and set up the Kellogg Toasted Corn Flake Company. William Kellogg discarded the health food concept, opting for heavy advertising and commercial taste appeal. His signature on every package became the company trademark and insurance of quality.
Charles W. Post, a former Kellogg patient, discovered a new angle, with Postum, a cereal coffee substitute that eliminated most of the caffeine found in regular coffee. "It Makes Red Blood," the Postum ads proclaimed. In 1898 he introduced Grape-nuts, the concentrated cereal with a nutty flavor and in the late 1890s Post joined the cornflake wars with Post Toasties. Good business sense, determination, and powerful advertising produced a multi-million dollar fortune for Post in a few years. After his death in 1914 his company acquired the Jell-O company in 1925, Baker's chocolate in 1927, Maxwell House coffee in 1928, Birdseye frozen foods in 1929, and changed its name to General Foods in 1929. Philip Morris tobacco bought General Foods for $5.6 billion in 1985, merged it with its Kraft division, then spun off Kraft as independent.
20th century 
In 1902 Force wheat flakes became the first ready-to-eat breakfast cereal introduced into the United Kingdom. The cereal, and the Sunny Jim character, achieved wide success in Britain, at its peak in 1930 selling 12.5 million packages.
In the 1930s, the first puffed cereal, Kix, went on the market. Beginning after World War II, the big breakfast cereal companies – now including General Mills, who entered the market in 1924 with Wheaties – increasingly started to target children. The flour was refined to remove fiber, which at the time was considered to make digestion and absorption of nutrients difficult, and sugar was added to improve the flavor for children. The new breakfast cereals began to look starkly different from their ancestors. As one example, Kellogg's Sugar Smacks, created in 1953, had 56% sugar by weight. Different mascots were introduced, such as the Rice Krispies elves and later pop icons like Tony the Tiger and the Trix Rabbit.
National advertising and General Mills 
National advertising in magazines and radio, and after 1950 television, was the key to the emergence in the 1920s of the fourth big manufacturer, General Mills. In 1921, James Ford Bell, president of a Minneapolis wheat milling firm, began experimenting with rolled wheat flakes. After tempering, steaming, and cracking wheat and processing it with syrup, sugar, and salt, it was prepared in a pressure cooker for rolling and then dried in an electric oven. By 1925 Wheaties had become the "Breakfast of Champions." In 1928 four milling companies consolidated as the General Mills Company in Minneapolis. The new firm expanded packaged food sales by heavy advertising, including sponsorship of such radio programs as "Skippy," "Jack Armstrong, The All-American Boy," and baseball games. Endorsements by Jack Dempsey, Johnny Weissmuller, and others verified the "Breakfast of Champions" slogan. By 1941 Wheaties had won 12% percent of the cereal market. Experiments with the puffing process produced Kix, a puffed corn cereal, and Cheerios, a puffed oats cereal. Further product innovation and diversification brought total General Mills sales to over $500 million annually (18% in packaged foods) by the early 1950s.
Processing is the modification of a grain or mixture of grains usually taking place in a facility remote from the location where the product is eaten. This distinguishes "breakfast cereals" from foods made from grains modified and cooked in the place where they are eaten.
Muesli is a breakfast cereal based on uncooked rolled oats, fruit, and nuts. It was developed around 1900 by the Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner for patients in his hospital. It is available in a packaged dry form such as Alpen, or it can be made fresh.
Warm cereals 
Most warm cereals can be classified as porridges, in that they consist of cereal grains which are soaked and/or boiled to soften them and make them palatable. Sweeteners, such as brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup, are often added either by the manufacturer, during cooking, or before eating.
Common hot cereals in parts of Canada include oatmeal, Cream of Wheat and Red River cereal. These hot cereals are typically served with maple syrup or brown sugar and milk or cream. Yogurt is a popular addition to Red River cereal. Many Canadians also enjoy cereals common to the style pioneered and currently prevalent in the United States market.
In China, porridges such as rice congee, or those made with other ingredients (including corn meal or millet) are often eaten for breakfast.
In Greece, cornmeal is poured into boiling milk to create a cereal of a thick consistency which is often served to young children.
Ireland is known for their oatmeal. Arguably the most famous variety of these is steel-cut oatmeal. Oatmeal is very popular in Ireland, and is a common breakfast there. It is one of Ireland's major culinary exports, and is widely-available throughout the world. Major brands include McCann's.
In Russia, a breakfast is kasha, a porridge of buckwheat (Russian: гречка, grechka), farina (Russian: манка, manka), or other grains. Kasha is found throughout much of Eastern Europe, including Poland and Croatia.
South Africa 
Pap is a porridge used in a variety of meals eaten throughout the day. In the Afrikaans culture of descendants of Dutch farmers and French Huguenots, it is usually sprinkled with sugar and then eaten with milk; it can be made to a very stiff consistency so that it forms – what could be described as – a softish lumpy crumble (called krummel-pap) or a more creamy porridge consistency (called slap-pap). It is generally made from maize ("mealie") meal and is sold under various brand names. Taystee Wheat is made into a creamy wheat-based porridge.
In other parts of Africa it is known as ugali, sadza, and banku.
United States 
Oatmeal is popular in the United States. Wheat-based cereals (Cream of Wheat, Malt-o-Meal, Wheatena, etc.) are widely available if less popular. Grits is a porridge of native American origin made from corn (maize) which is popular in the South.
Breakfast cereal companies make gluten-free cereals which are free of any gluten containing grains. These cereals are targeted for consumers who suffer from Celiac Disease. Some companies that produce gluten-free cereals include Kellogg's, General Mills, Nature's Path and Arrowhead Mills.
See also 
- Cereal box prize
- Flakes (film)
- List of breakfast cereals
- List of breakfast cereal advertising characters
- List of breakfast topics
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