Breakfast cereal is a processed food manufactured from grain and intended to be eaten as a main course served with milk during the morning meal. Some breakfast cereals require brief cooking, but these hot cereals are less popular than cold, ready-to-eat cereals.
Prehistoric peoples ground whole grains and cooked them with water to form gruels and porridges similar to today's hot cereals. Cold cereals did not develop until the second half of the nineteenth century.
Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals were invented because of religious beliefs. The first step in this direction was taken by the American clergyman Sylvester Graham, who advocated a vegetarian diet. He used unsifted, coarsely ground flour to invent the Graham cracker in 1829. Influenced by Graham, Seventh-Day Adventists, who also believed in vegetarianism, founded the Western Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek, Michigan, in the 1860s. At this institute, later known as the Battle Creek Sanitarium, physician John Harvey Kellogg invented several grain-based meat substitutes.
In 1876 or 1877, Kellogg invented a food he called granola from wheat, oats, and corn that had been mixed, baked, and coarsely ground. In 1894, Kellogg and his brother W. K. Kellogg invented the first precooked flaked cereal. They cooked ground wheat into a dough, then flattened it between metal rollers and scraped it off with a knife. The resulting flakes were then cooked again and allowed to stand for several hours. This product was sold by mail order as Granose for 15 cents per 10-ounce (284 g) package.
Both W. K. Kellogg and C. W. Post, a patient at the sanitarium, founded businesses to sell such products as health foods. Their success led dozens of imitators to open factories in Battle Creek between 1900 and 1905. These businesses quickly failed, while Kellogg and Post still survive as thriving manufacturers of breakfast cereals.
Their success can be partially attributed to advertising campaigns, which transformed the image of their products from health foods to quick, convenient, and tasty breakfast foods. Another factor was the fact that Kellogg and Post both manufactured corn flakes, which turned out to be much more popular than wheat flakes. Breakfast cereals have continued to increase in popularity in the twentieth century. Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are served in nine out of 10 American households.
The most important raw material in any breakfast cereal is grain. The grains most commonly used are corn, wheat, oats, rice, and barley. Some hot cereals, such as plain oatmeal, and a few cold cereals, such as plain shredded wheat, contain no other ingredients. Most breakfast cereals contain other ingredients, such as salt, yeast, sweeteners, flavoring agents, coloring agents, vitamins, minerals, and preservatives.
The sweeteners used in breakfast cereals include malt (obtained from barley), white sugar, brown sugar, and corn syrup. Some natural cereals are sweetened with concentrated fruit juice. A wide variety of flavors may be added to breakfast cereals, including chocolate, cinnamon and other spices, and fruit flavors. Other ingredients added to
Vitamins and minerals are often added to breakfast cereals to replace those lost during cooking. The most important of these is vitamin B-i, 90 % of which is destroyed by heat. The antioxidants BHA and BHT are the preservatives most often added to breakfast cereals to prevent them from becoming stale and rancid.
3 The cooked grain is moved to a conveyor belt, which passes through a drying oven. Enough of the water remains in the cooked grain to result in a soft, solid mass which can be shaped as needed.
Every step in the manufacturing of breakfast cereal is carefully monitored for quality. Since cereal is a food intended for human consumption, sanitation is essential. The machines used are made from stainless steel, which can be thoroughly cleaned and sterilized with hot steam. Grain is inspected for any foreign matter when it arrives at the factory, when it is cooked, and when it is shaped.
To ensure proper cooking and shaping, the temperature and moisture content of the cereal is constantly monitored. The content of vitamins and minerals is measured to ensure accurate nutrition information. Filled packages are weighed to ensure that the contents of each box is consistent.
In order to label boxes with an accurate shelf life, the quality of stored cereal is tested over time. In order to be able to monitor freshness over a reasonable period of time, the cereals are subjected to higher than normal temperatures and humidities in order to speed up the spoiling process.
Breakfast cereal technology has advanced greatly since its origins in the late nineteenth century. The latest innovation in the industry is the twin-screw cooking extruder. The two rotating screws scrape each other clean as they rotate. This allows the dough to move more smoothly than in an extruder with only one screw. By using a twin-screw extruder, along with computers to precisely control temperature and pressure, cereals that usually require about 24 hours to make may be made in as little as 20 minutes.
Bruce, Scott, and Bill Crawford. Cerealizing America: The Unsweetened Story of American Breakfast Cereal. Faber and Faber, 1995.
Fast, Robert B., and Elwood F. Caldwell, eds. Breakfast Cereals and How They Are Made. American Association of Cereal Chemists, 1990.
Dworetzky, Tom. "The Churn of the Screw." Discover, May 1988, pp. 28-29.
Fast, R. B. "Breakfast Cereals: Processed Grains for Human Consumption." Cereal Foods World, March 1987, pp. 241-244.
Kellogg Company."How Kellogg's® Cereal is Made." December 4, 1996. http://kelloggs.com/booth/cereal.html (July 9, 1997).
— Rose Secrest