Celebrating American Innovation: John Kellogg

C4IP is recognizing John Kellogg, whose invention of the first breakfast cereal transformed American nutrition.

John Harvey Kellogg was born in Michigan in February 1852. Kellogg learned early on to value healthy living, which ultimately led him to pursue a career in medicine. He studied at the University of Michigan Medical School and later at Bellevue Hospital Medical College, where he earned his M.D.

In 1876, a year after graduating from medical school, Kellogg moved back to Michigan to become superintendent of a sanitarium in Battle Creek. There, he embarked on a mission to help his patients lead healthier lives, which he did by inventing a variety of new foods and exercise equipment. One of these, the cereal flake, was conceived as a softer and more digestible alternative to bread. Kellogg created the flakes by boiling and flattening grain, then baking it into a crispy flake — an innovative process that he patented in 1896. In all, Kellogg registered roughly 30 patents in his life, which included methods for making peanut butter and soy milk as well as numerous medical devices.

Aided by his brother W.K. Kellogg — who founded the eponymous food company in 1906 — John Kellogg’s cereal flakes became his most influential invention, pioneering an entirely new category of food. In 2021, the global market for breakfast cereal was estimated to be worth over $36 billionSeven in 10 American households eat cereal. Health is cited by Americans as the number one reason for eating cereal, demonstrating that Kellogg’s invention successfully achieved its goal. Meanwhile, Kellogg’s continues to be one of the most prominent companies in the cereal industry, with over $430 million in annual sales, 30,000 employees, and a market capitalization of over $18.5 billion.

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