How Cornflakes Were Accidentally Invented

Cereal has come a long way since the invention of cornflakes back in 1894 (via Kellogg's official website). Though there are still some healthy options today, the current landscape of colorful cereals packed with sugar would be Dr. John Harvey Kellogg's waking nightmare. Believe it or not, he and his brother didn't get into the cereal game in the 19th century for the money, he wanted to create a health movement.

According to Forbes, the 1850s and the decades after were a time of "national indigestion" when Americans were eating huge breakfasts filled with pastries, fritters, boiled chickens, cold cuts, and steaks. Dr. Kellogg wanted to create what we know today as cornflakes to improve American eating habits as part of his "biological living" health movement that encouraged more exercise, more bathing, and eating more whole grains and less meat. 

According to The History Channel, Dr. Kellogg preached this movement to everyone at the church-founded health institute that he took over: Battle Creek Sanitarium — basically a medical spa and resort. Sounds pretty harmless and similar to the health movements happening now, right? Well, a few problematic rumors surrounded the real reason breakfast cereal was invented, but regardless of motive, we now know cornflakes were created by sheer accident.

They were trying to make granola and left it out too long

According to The History Channel, around 1877, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg concocted a twice-baked mixture of flour, oats, and cornmeal using a process called "dextrinization," which involved cooking whole grains at high temperatures to make them more easily digestible and therefore more healthy. In the process of making this "granola," according to Kellogg's official website, the wheat mixture was exposed to air overnight and, when it was flattened by a roller, it resulted in the first flaked cereal. After this happy accident, experimentations with several other grains happened before landing on corn as the best ingredient.

According to Forbes, after the invention of cornflakes, Dr. Kellogg ran into problems when other businessmen recreated his product — even his own brother William wanted to make them taste better by adding sugar, which was against everything Dr. Kellogg believed in. According to The History Channel, William Kellogg bought the rights to the flake cereal recipe from his brother to create the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company in 1906. He added malt, sugar, and salt to the original dough (making it edible by today's standard), began selling Kellogg's Corn Flakes in mass quantities, and spent a lot on advertising to bring it closer to the boxed version we know today.