This idea for corn flakes began by accident when Kellogg and his younger brother, Will Keith Kellogg, left some cooked wheat to sit while they attended to some pressing matters at the sanitarium. When they returned, they found that the wheat had gone stale, but being on a strict budget, they decided to continue to process it by forcing it through rollers, hoping to obtain long sheets of the dough. To their surprise, what they found instead were flakes, which they toasted and served to their patients. This event occurred on August 8, 1894, and a patent for “Flaked Cereals and Process of Preparing Same” was filed on May 31, 1895, and issued on April 14, 1896.
The accidental legacy of corn flakes goes back to the late 19th century, when a team of Seventh-day Adventists began to develop new food to adhere to the vegetarian diet recommended by the church. Members of the group experimented with a number of different grains, including wheat, oats, rice, barley, and corn. In 1894, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the superintendent of The Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan and an Adventist, used these recipes as part of a strict vegetarian regimen for his patients, which also included no alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine.
The diet he imposed consisted entirely of bland foods. A follower of Sylvester Graham, the inventor of graham crackers and graham bread, Kellogg believed that spicy or sweet foods would increase passions.
The flakes of grain, which the Kelloggs called granose, were a very popular food among the patients. The brothers then experimented with other flakes from other grains. In 1906, Will Keith Kellogg, who served as the business manager of the sanitarium, decided to try to mass-market the new food. At his new company, Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, he added sugar to the flakes to make them more palatable to a mass audience, but this caused a rift between his brother and him.
To increase sales, in 1909, he added a special offer, the Funny Jungleland Moving Pictures Booklet, which was made available to anyone who bought two boxes of the cereal. This same premium was offered for 22 years. At the same time, Kellogg also began experimenting with new grain cereals to expand his product line. Rice Krispies, his next great hit, first went on sale in 1928.
Corn flakes are produced in significant quantities at the Trafford Park factory in Manchester, England, which is also the largest cereal factory in the world.
A former patient of the Battle Creek Sanitarium named C. W. Post started a rival company, as well as the major other brand of corn flakes in the United States, called Post Toasties. Australia’s Sanitarium also manufactures their own brand of corn flakes called Skippy corn flakes. In addition, many generic brands of corn flakes are produced by various manufacturers.
In addition, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons, Asda Co-operative, etc. have brought out similar products based on cornflakes. A variety of corn flakes that is sold in the United Kingdom is one where honey and nuts have been added to the corn flakes – this is known as “honey nut corn flakes”.