1924 Kellogg’s starts making corn flakes in Sydney

Kellogg's Corn Flakes delivery vehicle. Image: Flickr - Benoits 15

Seventh-day Adventist Dr John Harvey Kellogg filed a patent for a flaked cereal process in 1895 when he and his brother Will (W.K.)invented it as an adjunct to the strict vegetarian diet at their Michigan health facility.  Sugar was added to the corn flakes when they were first mass-marketed in 1906. In 1924, the first Australian Kellogg’s plant was set up at Chippendale, Sydney, moving to the current site of Botany in 1928.

The Kellogg brothers were Seventh-day Adventists who adhered to the Church’s theology of Christian principles and sound body, mind and hygiene rules. In 1876, John Harvey Kellogg became the director of the Western Health Reform Institute of Battle Creek, a facility operated by the Adventists and devoted to “water cures”. Kellogg changed the name of the Institute to the Battle Creek Sanitarium – a word he invented as a derivation of Sanatorium.

Australian ad campaign 1925

Medical science at the time was somewhat obsessed with digestion and patients at the Sanitarium were fed a vegetarian diet, including a twice-baked, hard bread served without butter, water or milk. After a woman broke her dentures on the bread and threatened to sue, Kellogg devised a way to reduce it to crumbs that he called Granula and, later, Granola.

John’s interest in more palatable cereals led to experiments with wheat dough. There are various stories about the invention of the first flaked cereal, including the Doctor’s claim that the idea came to him in a dream. There is little doubt, though, that while John Kellogg is the one named on the patent documents it was W.K. who conducted the experiments to perfect the process. The wheat flakes, named Granose, were introduced at the 1895 General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists and were soon being sold at the Sanitarium and by mail order for 15 cents a 10-ounce package.

Australian ad campaign 1934

A small factory was set up and the product proved so successful that by 1898 a larger factory was required.  W.K. Kellogg ran the factory and managed the cereal business, but John refused to sanction any hint of commercialisation that might jeopardise his standing as a medical professional. Meanwhile, competitors began to offer flaked cereals including versions sweetened with malt and sugar. After lengthy experimentation, W.K. developed a process for making a flaked cereal from corn, flavoured with malt, sugar and salt. In 1906, he began a national advertising campaign in the US for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.

The was long-lasting enmity between the two brothers. In 1906 a legal agreement gave W.K. the sole right to market Corn Flakes in the United States, but John secured the rights to sales in other markets. The first plants outside the USA were located in Canada and Australia.

As early as 1915, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes were being imported into Australia, along with other cereal brands including Quaker Oats and Post Toasties (a type of cornflake manufactured by the American Postum company).  The toasted cornflakes were marketed as a health food.

A Kellogg representative, Joel S. Mitchell, was sent to Australia in August 1925 to launch the marketing program for Corn Flakes. The product was so successful that the original, rented premises in Chippendale proved inadequate and a purpose-built factory was constructed at Botany. The site for the Botany plant was selected for its position on the railway line and close to the wharves.

Along with Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, the factory made All-Bran, which had been invented by W. H.’s son, and Kellogg’s Pep, a flaked wheat cereal.  All-Bran was unashamedly promoted as a cure for constipation.

In 1929, Kellogg’s Australian factory began to make the new breakfast dish, Rice Bubbles, just a year after the cereal had been introduced in the USA as Rice Krispies. The change of name was likely owing to a trade-mark conflict, as there was already a cereal in Australia called Crispies. In the 1930s, Rice Bubbles became an essential ingredient of Chocolate Crackles, a confection ever-popular at school fetes and children’s parties.

Kellogg’s advertising 1930s

Over the decades, Kellogg’s has introduced many new brands. In 2011 Kellogg’s said the company employed some 650 people in its Australian operations and used around 30,000 tons of corn as well as many other Australian-grown ingredients. It continues to dominate the ready-to-eat breakfast cereal market in Australia and exports Australian-made breakfast cereals and cereal bars into countries across the Asia Pacific region.

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