Kellogg’s-A Company That Made Cornflakes By Mistake
Kellogg’s is a company that sells $13 billion worth of cereals in a year. How did a man who wanted to help out his patients, accidentally end up creating one of the biggest food companies in the world?
The Kellogg brothers grew up in a family where education was not a priority. Because their parents expected Christ’s second coming before the children would need to use their education. Despite his parent's belief John Harvey managed to get a medical degree. His degree with the passion of helping his patients forced him to experiment. His brother Will Keith on the other hand started selling his father’s brooms to local grocery stores. Looking at Harvey’s passion, Will soon joined him as the business manager. The two believed that more grains in the diet would lead to a long, healthy life for all.
Dr. John noticed that regular breakfast died such as bacon and eggs, cold roast beef, ham or tea and toast, was not the best health choice. John felt this breakfast was not only unhealthy but also took time. So the brother started experimenting, Dr. John was interested in cereal for his patients. In the process of developing a substitute for bread, the brothers destroyed their kitchen. A fire broke out, all their receipts went up in flames. But as they say,
“When the storm rips you to pieces, you have to decide how to put yourself back together again.”
And the brothers did, they managed to put together crispy flakes, for Dr. John, his corn flakes were part of a health movement, a movement that he felt could bring positive change to society. John wanted to keep his cereal strictly for his patients but Will saw an opportunity. Why limit cereals only to the patients? Why not share it with the world? and change the way people breakfast. This cereal was the start of what was to become the world’s largest cereal maker, a business that would change breakfast, the Kellogg Company.
The brothers had unofficially founded Kellogg’s in 1898. For John, Kellogg’s was a way to improve Americans eating habits, and because of his belief he was open to sharing his recipe in public gatherings, but Will wanted to keep it a secret. Before the brothers could embark on their business venture, one man who watched Dr.John make his recipe, Charles W Post. Who took the idea and started his own company. Will saw what Charles did, and to avoid this from happening again, Will ended up buying the rights to manufacture cornflakes from John and went to work.
In 1906 Will opened the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company. For Will he was already late, for a recipe that the brothers created, he felt he should have been at the forefront. But they were not, in fact, they had 40+ competitors. All trying to make a name for themselves. The company at the time had 44 employees working together to bring Will’s vision to life, A great-tasting, better-for-you breakfast. They started by selling cornflakes through mail orders to their ex-patients, but that did not go as expected. So Will launched an aggressive advertising and promotional campaign, he started advertising in newspapers and on billboards. He ran a campaign telling readers to “wink at your grocer and see what you get”. What you got was a free sample of W.K. cornflakes. This campaign alone increased sales by a factor of fifteen in New York City, the company was now profitable.
In the early days, Will would spend hours reviewing incoming and outgoing telegrams in the sales department, if he wasn’t happy with a response he would send a response, “Why wasn’t this done?” and wait for the reply. If there was no reply he would pop up in the most unexpected place looking for an answer. His obsession kept sales reps on their toes and brought Kellogg’s products to every home in the U.S.
Will started another camping which was named “Eat a Good Breakfast — Do a Better Job” where grocery stores handed out pamphlets that promoted the importance of breakfast while radio advertisements announced that “Nutrition experts say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Advertising was the key to the cereal business. Whether they involved cartoon characters or wacky health claims, the important thing was to establish a brand.
This was also the time for the Industrial Revolution, it revolutionized the nature of work. With many going to factories, shops, and offices, a standardized schedule 9–5 was created. Leaving less time for food preparation during the workweek. As the 19th century gave way to the 20th, Americans woke up to a new kind of breakfast. Poured from a box into a bowl and doused with milk, cold cereals, Kellogg’s Toasted Corn Flakes.
Unfortunately in the coming years the stock market crash in 1929, the US was in depression, Will famously said
“I’ll invest in people”
and he did. He split shifts and hired new employees to work by restructuring his plant to work in four shifts.
Nearly two decades later, another spokesman came roaring to the front of Sugar Frosted Flakes, his famous words: Gr-r-reat. Ads by the chicken lobby may have convinced people to eat chicken, but an avalanche of Tony the Tiger in 1951 got thousands of children to eat Frosted Flakes every morning for years to come.
During this time the cereal giants were given a helpful nudge by a number of scientific studies that were published recommending more fiber and less meat in the diet. The Kellogg brothers` ideas were validated.
What the future holds for Kellogg’s is yet to be seen, but there is no doubt a company that kept its customers first, today holds fifth place in the global ranking for brand value. Until next time, have a good one.