Mar 07, 2013 • By

Happy National Cereal Day

General Mills is joining fans of our cereals around the U.S. today by celebrating National Cereal Day.

Of course we make much more than cereal, but you could argue that our company identity is most closely tied to the Big G cereal brands.

In honor of the “holiday,” I did some digging in the General Mills Archives to learn more about a few of our cereals and how they’ve been a part of American life for more than 90 years!

Do you know what our first cereal was?

It was created in 1921, when according to company legend:

…a health clinician in Minneapolis was mixing a batch of bran gruel for his patients when he spilled some of the mix on a hot stove. The gruel crackled and sizzled into a crisp flake.

The story says that he took a taste, and decided to bring it to the Washburn Crosby Company, our predecessor company, to see what we thought.

George Cormack, the head miller at the company, took on the innovation challenge. He spent days testing more than 30 varieties of wheat. At last, he felt he had the perfect flake.

Now, the cereal just needed a name.

Washburn Crosby employees were asked to come up with it, in a contest.

This iconic cereal, known today by its tagline of “The Breakfast of Champions,” could have been given the exciting name of “Gold Medal Wheat Flakes” or “Nutties.” But instead, Jane Bausman – the wife of the company’s export manager – suggested “Wheaties.” The name stuck, and Wheaties went on sale in 1924.

Just a few years later, we were on our way to creating the first corn puff cereal, “Kix,” in 1937.

The first ready-to-eat oat cereal, “CheeriOats” followed in 1941 (it was changed to “Cheerios” in 1945).

According to our employee newspaper, “The Modern Millwheel,” more than 500 different formulas were tested and more than 10 shapes and sizes were developed before researchers came up with the perfect “O.”

Early commercials were cartoons, like this one, and highlighted the “GO” power of Cheerios.

By 1954, Cheerios was our best-selling cereal. Today, the Cheerios franchise remains the most popular cereal brand family in U.S. stores.

In the years since our first cereal inventions, General Mills has kept them coming – there are at least 90 of our cereals listed in “The Great American Cereal Book” (which I consult every week when someone asks us online about a cereal from our past).

Today, many of our cereals are a popular choice on the breakfast table in the U.S. and worldwide.

And, they’re more nutritious than ever (read our “Benefits of Cereal” publication for more information).

Today, all Big G cereals contain more whole grain than any other single ingredient. And, all contain at least 10 grams of whole grain per serving – and more than 20 have at least 16 grams.We’ve also reduced sugar. All of our Big G kid cereals are at 10 grams of sugar or less per serving. And we’ve reduced sugar in many of our other cereals as well.

So, whether you crave Lucky Charms as a midnight snack or in the morning, or pour a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch because you secretly love the milk that’s left in the bowl when the squares are gone, take a minute or two to enjoy National Cereal Day!

And, let us know what your favorite Big G cereal is, past or present, in the comments below!

Editor’s note: The General Mills Archives provided information and images for this post. You can learn more about our past on GeneralMills.com. Have a question about General Mills’ history? Send our Archives team an email.