The REAL “Unfrosted” Story!

May 30, 2024


Did you see Jerry Seinfeld’s new Netflix movie, “Unfrosted”?

Told the story of the cereal wars in Battle Creek, Michigan in the 1960s in humorous but fictional fashion.

Now for the real story.



Did you know America’s love for cold cereal started with the 7th Day Adventist Church? Headquartered in Battle Creek, Michigan at the time, the church placed an emphasis on diet and health, including a regimen of plant-based foods.

The church opened the Battle Creek Sanitarium, world-renowned health resort with 1,300 guest rooms, in the late 1800s. It had a nickname of “Little Chicago” considering a large percentage of guests came from the nearby big city.

The sanitarium was managed by surgeon, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, a last name you are surely familiar with.

Dr. Kellogg began experimenting on a healthy alternative to the American breakfast diet of the times…meat, eggs and potatoes.

Near the turn of the century, he created a wheat flakes cereal right there at the sanitarium for guests to enjoy.

There was soon a falling out between John and his brother, Will Keith (W.K.), who had partnered with John in opening a cereal business.

John was into health; W.K. was in to profits. W.K. developed a cheaper version of the cereal, using corn instead of wheat, and John said “I’m out!”

Kellogg’s Corn Flakes hit the market in 1899.


One of the guests at the sanitarium, Charles William (C.W.) Post, must have held a glass to a door, because he soon thereafter introduced Post Grape Nuts, which were neither grapes nor nuts, but grain pulverized into small chucks with a grinder.

He is pictured above with his young daughter, Marjorie Post, who replaced C.W. as principal in their cereal business at age 26 after his passing in 1914.

Marjorie, 44-year owner and managing director of Post, became immensely wealthy.

Perhaps her biggest claim to fame came posthumously. Her estate sold Mar-A-Lago, her long-time residence, to Donald Trump.

Kellogg’s and Post became the two titans in Battle Creek, which became known as the “Cereal Capitol of the World”. Because cold cereal was so easy and cheap to make, over 100 competitor companies flooded the town in the first 25 years of the 20th Century.

Some tried to produce knock-off products. Some just bought cereal off the shelves and repackaged it.

That reflects how in a few decades cereal took over morning breakfasts. People were gravitating from farms to factories. Suddenly they were on the clock, needed to eat fast and get out of the house.

Let’s take a hall of fame stroll through the most popular new cereals by decade.

1920s – Wheaties

Famous from the outset for highlighting famous athletes on its boxes, for many years with early Olympian, Bob Richards.

Chose to highlight a more recent box in the series, the Bruce Jenner box. Who would have ever imagined the future of Bruce (Caitlyn).

1930’s – Cheerios

Cheeri Oats, as they were first known, became the king of the cereal hall of fame, ultimately the most consumed cold cereal in the world.

1940s – Rice Krispies

The three mascots of the cereal, Snap, Crackle and Pop, were so effective at selling the cereal to kids that, from then on, mascots became an essential part of cereal marketing.

1950s – Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes

Did you know the voice of Tony the Tiger (“They’re Great!”) was Thurl Ravencroft, who sang many Disney songs and “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”?

In the 1980s and 1990s, he was the narrator for the Pageant of the Masters summer art pageant in Laguna Beach.

1960s to Present – Crap

Ironic that the cold cereal business was started as a healthy breakfast alternative and turned into a swampland of sugary diabetes-promoting slop.

The good news is many Americans are giving a side eye to whole milk and sugar.

With the exception of the height of the pandemic, ready-to-eat cereals have been declining in sales about 4% a year in recent years.


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