The Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company was founded by Will Keith Kellogg on February 19, 1906. There are those who believe the invention of Corn Flakes by W. K. Kellogg changed the way we eat breakfast forever. There were those who would disagreed...
The Kellogg Company was started in 1906, after W.K. parted ways with his brother, John Harvey Kellogg (who didn’t see the market potential of breakfast cereal). But success didn’t come easy. On July 4th, 1907, the first Kellogg plant burned to the ground. With the ruins still smoking, W.K. rushed an architect to the scene and began designing a new, fireproof plant. As always, this shy man was immensely confident in the rightness of his cause. (source)W.K. Kellogg was an aggressive marketer of his products. His goal was to change the consumer's view of breakfast food by overwhelming them with a new world of "flaked cereal." Competition was tough. When Kellogg formed his company in 1906, there were more than forty other companies producing cold "ready to eat" cereal. For instance, C.W. Post had founded the Postum Cereal Co. in 1895, which he first started by producing a coffee substitute called Postum Food Coffee. Eventually he added Grape-Nuts (containing neither grapes nor nuts) and Elijah's Manna (re-named Post Toasties) and in 1899 he established the Battle Creek Box Company to package his foods.
Through advertising, Will Kellogg's genius shined. By 1911, the company branded with his name on every cereal box, had an annual budget of $1 million dollars for advertising alone. A portion of that money was used to light up the the roof of the Mecca Building in Time Square with the electric lights on the roof and a K which stood six feet tall. Molly Wade McGrath shares in the history of Kellogg's in her book, Top Sellers USA first published in 1983.
...When the factory doors opened for W.K. Kellogg's Toasted Corn Flake Company in 1906, there were forty-two cereal companies registered in the Battle Creek area, more than the total number of employees at the original Sanitas Food Plant. W. K.'s company became the leader among the few survivors of the early competition. To guard against any possible confusion, W. K. had his name printed on every package of Kellogg's Corn Flakes, in W. K. own handwriting style, with the explanation, "The original bears this signature."In Horace B. Powell's biography of Kellogg published in 1956, he had this to say about Kellogg's mass marketing approach.
Mr. Kellogg appreciated the power of the new force that was beginning to be used by progressive businessmen—the force of consumer advertising. Visualizing his foods on breakfast tables in millions of homes, he knew that the entrée to these homes was chiefly through advertising.One of Kellogg's most ambitious campaigns was launched in New York City on June 5, 1907 when W. K. ran ads in all the major New York City newspapers. "Wednesday is 'Wink Day" promised every housewife in the city who winked at her grocer on Wednesday that she would receive a free box of Corn Flakes. It was a Huge success! It convinced New Yorker's to try cold cereal at home. And, you know what they say, "if you can make it in the big Apple, you can make it Anywhere! It has been reported, that from two trainloads of cereal being delivered to the Big Apple per month, the increase went to more than 30 trainloads.
In 1910, Kellogg offered the very first cereal premium: Funny Jungleland™ Moving Pictures Book. It was available with the purchase of two packages of Kellogg's Toasted Corn Flakes. The offer continued for twenty-three years! I'm very fortunate to have a copy of the 1932 edition of the booklet in my personal collection.
revised February 2013