Why Cornflakes Are the Universal Base of Cereal


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Thong Nguyen, Feature and Opinion Editor

Cornflakes, they’re as universal as the US dollar. That’s the thing about cornflakes, no matter the context, you can always recognize it. In any form of media, cornflakes or cornflake based products are the basis for any scene featuring cereal.

To understand why, we must understand how. In 1894, William K. Kellogg (abbreviated to W. K. Kellogg) discovered the creation of cornflakes by accident. As he left boiled wheat out, intending to turn it into a dough, he had inadvertently made the wheat stale. However, he still went along to bake the wheat, what came out was cornflakes. Although Will, who had worked at his brother’s sanitarium during his discovery, had a falling out with his brother John, Will would found the Kellogg Company. Undoubtedly, Kellogg submitted the patent in 1896 for cornflakes with his brother. That would cause trouble later on down the road and spawn a legal battle between the rights for the Kellogg name and cornflakes.

W. K. would utilize the cornflake cereal to birth similar cereals using cornflakes/flake-like chips as the main component like Special K, Rice Krispies, Raisin Bran, etc. Although different from cornflakes in a unique way each, all are produced the same as cornflakes and using the same baking process. Kellogg’s legacy was all in his company and it would continue to thrive and produce home classic snacks and cereal like Cheez-It or Coco Puffs.

For over a hundred years, the Kellogg company has adapted to the times. Especially to the media. Film and television have come a long way to today’s standard, and Kellogg is no stranger to product placement. In the award-winning show Breaking Bad, there are multiple scenes where Kellogg related products pop up within the show, like Raisin Bran, which the characters have a dispute over a variant of Raisin Bran. In fact, there have been over a dozen product placements in the last decade in media productions.

Kellogg was one of the first cereal companies ever made, their longevity is a statement to its competitors. That’s why cornflakes are universal, it’s been around for so long that people know Kellogg and their products. Most of their cornflake products don’t target a specific gender, age, nor political view, making it available for everyone. Cornflakes are also very “standard”, it’s what people think of when they think of a bowl of cereal just like how people think of chocolate they think of Nestle. People put Kellogg’s cornflakes as the definitive example of cereal because it fits the profile of a universal cereal. The appeal of it all stems from it being a cereal that targets everyone.

That’s how and why Cornflakes have become the definition of cereal. Due to constant product placement, cunning leadership, and the profile of cornflakes themselves allowed the cereal to become the cereal.