K is for… Kellogg’s. Have you ever wished there was a cereal that could stop you masturbating? Stop the strain in your arms, the blurring of your vision, the single-minded pursuit, day after exhausting day, of the solo orgasm? Thank goodness, then, for Kellogg’s corn flakes, the cereal engineered specifically to lower the sex drive.
Or so the legend goes. Kellogg’s was started in 1906 by one Will Keith Kellogg, a devout member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. His brother, John Harvey Kellogg, was a doctor at the Battle Creek Sanatorium, a health spa based on the principles of the church. Dr Kellogg was a zealous advocate of the benefits of ‘holistic’ healthcare (over a century before Deliciously Ella was even born) and proscribed exercise, enemas and a vegetarian diet to this clients. The tale goes that Dr Kellogg was convinced that anything too flavoursome would awaken appetites unrelated to the stomach; exciting foods lead to excited libidos. Thus the invention of the perfectly bland corn flakes, after a bowl of which one would feel more inclined to practice calisthenics than shuffle upstairs for some solitary pleasure.
Dr Kellogg was certainly an ardent critic of masturbation, and preached sexual reticence. And reading his record of food ordered by the sanitarium, one can conclude that it offered a largely fruit- and vegetable- based diet: 20,515lbs of grapes were consumed each year, alongside similar quantities of apples, tomatoes and peas. But, on the other hand, Dr Kellogg was keen for his patients to enjoy their food. ‘The importance of relish is fully recognised,’ he wrote in 1908. ‘Every care is taken to provide patients will tasty, well-flavoured dishes.’ Alas, no real evidence exists to support the theory that Kellogg’s corn flakes was specifically invented to dampen the libido, even if Dr Kellogg did hope that this might be the case.
What Kellogg’s corn flakes did do is nearly as impressive, however. Will Keith Kellogg took the recipe that his brother had patented in 1896 and, to make it appeal to a mass audience, added sugar. This horrific act caused a rift between the two; from now on, Will was on his own (for grammar pedants, this satisfactorily explains why the brand is called Kellogg’s rather than Kelloggs’). He further ruptured relations when he encouraged flirtation, by promising a free box of cereal to every woman who winked at her greengrocer. Oh, the humanity.
The humble corn flake grew and grew, and its success spawned other giants of the cereal world. Rice Krispies, Crunchy Nut corn flakes and Coco Pops are all made under the Kellogg’s umbrella, largely in Manchester’s Trafford Park factory, the largest cereal factory on earth.
Kellogg’s also invented all kinds of neat / evil retailing tricks that have been picked up by other brands. They helped create the idea of mascots: for corn flakes it is the traditional rooster, from the Welsh ‘ceiliog’ meaning cockerel. Rice Krispies have Snap, Crackle and Pop; Frosties have Tony the Tiger. They put prizes in boxes, a tactic since copied by everyone from Walkers (remember salt-and-grease-covered top trumps cards?) to Nestle. And they bought up other brands. In 2012, with the acquisition of the Pringles brand from Proctor and Gamble, Kellogg’s became the second-largest snack food company in the world.
Not bad for a dried flake of cereal that started life as a chastity belt.