The Kellogg Company, arguably the best known maker of ready to eat cereals, has its orgins in Battle Creek, Michigan at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, a hospital and health spa for the rich and famous ran by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. His brother William Keith ("W. K.") Kellogg a ready made, breakfast food that would not only be nutritious, but would taste good as well. In 1894 that W. K. Kellogg developed a baked wheat flake, the first modern ready to eat cereal. With his brother, John Harvey, he formed the Sanitas Food Company in 1898. The brothers eventually came to disagree and as a result W. K. left to form his own company. The Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company (later renamed the Kellogg Company) was founded by him on February 19, 1906. Their premiere product, of course, was Kellogg's Corn Flakes. Of course, this year the company turned 100 years old.
W. K. Kellogg literally revolutionised the way Americans ate breakfast. At the time the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company was founded, the typical breakfast might consist of eggs, bacon, porridge, and various other foods, most all of which had to be cooked. The introduction of Corn Flakes made eating breakfast much simpler--all one needed is a box of the breakfast cereal and milk. Indeed, ready to eat cereals were such a success that several companies entered the field: Post (which was actually founded before the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, in 1897), Ralston-Purina, Quaker Oasts, and General Mills (actually a latecomer to the field, not making their first ready to eat cereal until 1924).
As a result of the demand for ready to eat cereals, the Kellogg Company would expand beyond Corn Flakes. In the twenties they introduced both Pep (now defunct, it is perhaps best known for the premiums it offered, such as pinback buttons of comic strip characters and model planes) and perennial favourite Rice Krispies. In 1942 the company introduced Raisin Bran. The Fifties saw the comapny introduce both Sugar Frosted Flakes, Sugar Pops, and Special K. The Sixties also saw Kelloggs establish many of its better known products: Fruit Loops, Apple Jacks, and Pop Tarts. The company has continued to expand throughout its history, not just introducing new cereals and other foods, but either founding or simply buying many subsidiaries.
Of course, often times the characters Kellogg's created to promote its cereals are as famous as the cereals themselves. In 1933 they introduced three elves named Snap, Crackle, and Pop to promote Rice Krispies. They would become the first cereal characters to be animated for a commercial (a 1939 movie short) and are the oldest cereal characters still around. Equally as successful as Snap, Crackle, and Pop is the spokesman for Frosted Flakes. In 1952 Kelloggs held a poll to see which of four characters would promote their new cereal, Kellogg's Frosted Flakes. People could vote for Elmo the Elephant, Katy the Kangaroo, Newt the Gnu, and Tony the Tiger. Tony won and has promoted Frosted Flakes ever since. The success of Tony the Tiger would result in a proliferation of cereal characters in the Sixties, from Kellogg's own Tucan Sam to Quaker Oats' Cap'n Crunch.
While Kellogg's played a central role in the use of cartoon characters to promote cereals, they also pioneered the use of premiums and giveaways to encourage people to buy their cereals. In 1909 they offered what may well have been the first cereal premium, the Funny Jungleland Moving Pictures Booklet, available for two box tops from any of their cereals. Pep was perhaps more famous for its giveaways than anything else. In the Forties pinback buttons featuring cartoon characters (Dick Tracy, Superman, and so on) were included in each box of Pep. Another popular giveaway associated with Pep were model planes. Pep would eventually be discontinued, although many of its premiums and giveaways are still collectibles.
Beyond manufacturing ready to eat breakfast cereals and creating characters to promote them, the Kellogg Company has had an even more direct impact on pop culture by sponsoring various radio and TV shows. Kellogg's Pep had a long association with Superman. The cereal sponsored the radio show The Adventures of Superman from the Thirties to the Fifites. When the TV show, The Adventures of Superman debuted in the Fifties, the sponsor remained Kellogg's Pep. Other Fifties TV shows were also sponsored by Kellogg, among them Howdy Doody, Art Linkletter's House Party, and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. The Sixties saw Kellogg as the company which sponsored some of the most successful sitcoms of all time: The Beverly Hillbillies, My Favourite Martian, Batman, and The Monkees among them. The Monkees even sang the Kellogg's jingle in the Kellogg's billboard on the show!
The Kellogg Company has been around for over 100 years now. Long before radio and television it had started to infiltrate American pop culture. Many of the characters created to promote its cereals, such as Snap, Crackle, and Pop and Tony the Tiger, are more recognisable than many politicians, sports figures, and even movie stars. The premiums and giveaways associated with its cereals are now collectables. Even its commercials are well remembered by many. Given the fact that America's appetite for ready to eat cereals has yet to decline, I think it is safe that the Kellogg Company could well be around for another 100 years.