Could you tell the story of the first breakfast man

ever ate? Do you know about John Harvey Kellogg's

lucky accident that gave birth to the Corn Flake?

Probably not. Yet the story of breakfast is a long and

complex tale that spans continents and millennia.

Eating breakfast began in the Neolithic era – back

then, stone querns were used to grind grains to make

a sort of porridge. Porridge was also a staple of

Roman soldiers' diets – they called it “pulmentus.”

Indeed, we can thank the Romans for the word

breakfast, which comes from the Latin “disjejunare,”

meaning to break the fast, begun the night before

when going to bed. The word was later contracted to

disnare or disner in Old French, which eventually

became dinner in English. So the word dinner

actually means breakfast!

Rituals changed over time - during the middle ages,

barley and hops were used to make beer, which

was served up in the morning to hungry peasants

alongside oatcakes or porridge. Hot drinks like

coffee and tea, as well as meat, eggs and the like,

were slowly added to the initially short list of

breakfast foods.

Eating breakfast had become a more elaborate act

by the 19th century, at least in well-off households.

In the 1861 Book of Household Management,

Isabella Beeton suggested a daily breakfast buffet

that included a cold joint of meat, game pies,

broiled mackerel, sausages, bacon and eggs,

muffins, toast, marmalade, butter, jam, coffee,

and tea.




Ripened by over 140 days sunshine, the maize

which is to become cereals is gathered bya giant

combine harvester.


The grain arrives by ship and is transferred by

suction pipes to large storage silos at the rate of

2.000 tons per hour.


At the same time, however, there was a backlash

against these lavish diets. Groups like the 7th Day

Adventists protested that meat-based breakfasts

were leading to ill health and ill morals – the search

began for a healthier breakfast. Pioneers like

John Kellogg, Henry Perky and C.W. Post would,

over the next few decades, develop ready-to-eat

breakfast cereals that would go on to become

extremely popular and varied.

Later, around 1900, other forms of cereals were

being invented in Europe – such as muesli. This was

created by the Swiss doctor Maximilian Bircher-

Benner and consisted of rolled oats, nuts, seeds

and dried fruit. In the 20th century, with advances

in food production, the range of breakfast foods

on offer became more and more varied with time.

However, fewer and fewer people take the time

to have breakfast.


• Around 7000 B.C.: The first cereals (wheats,

barley) are cultivated in the Middle East

• Around 100 A.D.: Roman soldiers add porridge

to their diets

• 1463: First use of the word “breakfast” in English

• 1500s: First shipments of coffee to Venice

• 1821: William Cobbett, an English writer,

complains about the rise of tea as a breakfast drink

• 1894: John Harvey Kellogg invents the Corn Flake.




The milled “grits” are then taken by bulk road

transporter to the processing plant.


The mixture is funneled into giant cookers where

it is sealed and rotated under steam pressure.


The history of modern-day breakfast really begins

with a pain in American stomachs. The mid-19th

century breakfast consisted mainly of fatty meat,

was largely devoid of any fibre and created all sorts

of gastrointestinal disorders. There were also

concerns amongst members of a certain religious

movement that the traditional meat-based breakfast

could also lead to certain moral ills! The search

began for a healthier breakfast.

The first ever breakfast cereal was Granula,

invented in the USA in 1863 by James Caleb

Jackson, a convinced vegetarian, who was the

operator of the Jackson Sanitorium in the state

of New York. However, the cereal never caught on

commercially, because the heavy bran nuggets

needed soaking overnight before they were tender

enough to eat.

The first oat-based cereals put on the US market in

late 19th century also suffered from the same problem.

A cook-book written in 1903 confirms that: “four

hours of boiling makes oatmeal good; eight hours

makes it better; twenty-four hours makes it best.”

But then Doctor John Harvey Kellogg arrived

on the scene. A religious man, and a respected

superintendent at the Battle Creek Sanatorium, he

developed a biscuit made from oats, wheat and corn

meal, and a number of other cereals in the 1880s.

Together with his brother, the business savvy former

travelling broom salesman Will Keith Kellogg,

John developed several grain-based cereals. It was,

however, largely by accident that they invented the

first modern, ready-to-eat cereal, the “Corn Flake,”

and established the manufacturing model for

modern cereal production.





Every stage in processing is carefully

checked and controlled.


Heavy flaking mill rollers press the tempered

and partially caramelized corn grit (hearts)

into flakes under 40 tons of pressure.


The flakes are

rotary ovens at


While searching for a digestible bread substitute by

boiling wheat, they accidentally left a pot of boiled

wheat on the fire, which then overcooked. Trying to

salvage the remains, they rolled the wheat out and

let it dry. Surprisingly, each grain of wheat emerged

as a large thin flake, and these flakes turned out to

be a tasty cereal.

The basic manufacturing model for the breakfast

cereal industry had been established. After milling,

whole grains of flour, along with malt, a limited

amount of salt, sugar and water are mixed together

before being cooked. The cooked mixture is then

dried and cooled before being toasted.

But Kellogg was not the only pioneer in the breakfast

cereal arena. Henry Perky, of Denver, Colorado,

invented a machine in 1892 that would produce

wheat biscuits that would then be baked and dried

– his technique was known as “shredding” and gave

birth, in 1895, to “Shredded Wheat.”

Post Cereal came up with its own manufacturing

techniques. In 1895, C.W. Post, also of Battle Creek

in Michigan, USA, invested a small sum of money

in equipment designed to come up with a “breakfast

beverage” that he called “Postum.” Two years later,

his first ready-to-eat cereal, “Grape Nuts,” was

released on the market. This cereal involves mixing

of wheat, barley, flours, salt, yeast and water,

fortification with vitamins, then baking of the mix

into loaves. The loaves are then dried, ground and

sifted to produce the final article – breakfast cereal.

The modern manufacturing process has become

slightly more sophisticated with various gadgets

that made production easier and more varied.

In 1937, General Mills invented the “puffing gun.”

This machine heated up grains of rice (and other

cereals) to extremely high temperatures, at which

point the grains would puff up into tiny balls.



tumble toasted in giant

high temperature.


The toasted flakes flow by gravity in enclosed tubes

from the ovens to filling machines where they are

automatically dispensed by weight into the inner liners.


Filled liners of cereal are passed

along convertors and then packed

into the cereal cartons.


The first cereal to be made in this way was Kix.

Other techniques included extruding flakes into

pellets, producing varieties like Captain Krunch.

After the Second World War, manufacturers started

to bring new and innovative products to the shelves,

increasing choice and variety to the consumer.

Cereal has always been part of a healthy breakfast

and viewed as a nutritious morning snack.

For decades, the cereal industry has been

continuously reviewing and innovating their products

in order to bring the highest quality to its consumers.

This is accompanied by efforts to include more

nutrients – vitamins and minerals – in cereal through

techniques including fortification.

Breakfast cereals are still based on natural

grains – wheat, maize, rice, barley, oats and rye.

Though techniques have changed somewhat,

the basic principle is still simple. Made from

either flour or whole grains, they contain all of

the basic nutrients that we need to start the day:

carbohydrates, protein, fat, minerals, vitamins

and fibre.




After filling, the cartons are packed in cases

which then travel by conveyor belt systems

to the warehouse.


At the beginning of their journey to the breakfast table,

cereals are dispatched by road, night and day, all over the country.


• People who eat breakfast consume more

essential nutrients, tend to be slimmer and have

better concentration than those who skip breakfast

• The nutrients, vitamins and minerals missed at

breakfast are often not made up later in the day

• In the diet breakfast cereals are the leading

source of iron and B vitamins (approximately

20%) and also provide 10% of the fibre in the diet

of young people

• Eating a bowl of breakfast is quick and easy to

prepare in the morning and will provide you with

many benefits

• Skipping breakfast is common practice in Europe

and people on average skip breakfast 20% of

the time (71 breakfasts< per year) – the British

are the worst, skipping breakfast over 30% of

the time (113 breakfasts per year)

• Yearly per capita consumption of breakfast cereals

in Europe varies from 0.9 Kg in Italy to 6.4 Kg

in Ireland

• A typical 30g bowl of breakfast cereals with milk

contributes less sugar to the diet than other

common breakfast alternatives, such as bread

with jam

• On average, breakfast cereals contribute only a small

proportion of sugar to the diet – about 5% of the

average daily intake of added sugar among children

• Most breakfast cereals contain only small amounts

of salt per portion and contribute less than 5% of

the average daily intake of salt.



• The breakfast cereal industry in Europe is worth

more than €4.5 billion

• More than 1.1 million tonnes of breakfast cereals

are produced in the EU each year

• The sector includes more than 70 companies

employing over 11,000 people.


CEEREAL represents the breakfast cereal and oat

milling industries towards the European Union institutions

and other stakeholders. For more information on

CEEREAL please contact or visit

our website

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