The Accidental Flake


Hello – Winnie Griggs here.  I saw an interesting little segment on a Sunday morning program that discussed the history of the corn flake.  It intrigued me so I decided to do a little follow-up research. 

The cornflake was invented quite by accident.  The Seventh Day Adventists were very health conscious as a group and one of their sponsored facilities was the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan.  Among the members of the staff their were the Kellogg brothers.   Dr. John Harvey Kellogg was the Superintendent of the facility and Will Keith Kellogg was the Business Manager.  Dr. Kellogg was part of a team there that was experimenting with a number of different grains to develop ways to incorporate them into the strict vegetarian regimen for the patients there.  One of the products they developed was a type of granola that they created by  forcing it through rollers and creating long sheets of dough.

The development of the corn flakes came about due to a combination of distracted focus and a need to pinch pennies.  One day Dr. Kellogg let a container of cooked wheat sit too long while he and his brother were called to attend another pressing matter at the sanitarium.  Upon their return, they discovered the wheat had gone stale.  But since they were working with a tight budget Dr. Kellogg decided to process it anyway.  When the product was forced through the roller process, however, they were surprised to see the wheat had flaked.  Dr. Kellogg decided to toast these flakes and feed them to the patients and thus Kellogg’s Corn Flakes were born.

The flakes, which they initially called ‘granose’, proved to be quite popular with the patients.  The accidental discovery took place in August of 1894 and the patent for the product was issued in 1896.  It wouldn’t be until 1906, however, that  Will Kellogg would try to mass produce the corn flakes. 

His marketing plan included adding sugar to the flakes to make them more attractive to the general populace, a move that his brother completely disagreed with.  This eventually caused a rift in the relationship between the brothers, but it proved to be a smart marketing move as the flakes became quite popular. 

In an interesting footnote, Kellogg’s major rival, Post cereals, was started by C.W.Post who was a former patient of the Battle Creek Sanitarium.

Today most everyone in the US has had corn flakes at one

time or another and dozens of variations have been developed.  And it all started from one little accident.

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Winnie Griggs is the author of Historical (and occasionally Contemporary) romances that focus on Small Towns, Big Hearts, Amazing Grace. She is also a list maker, a lover of dragonflies and holds an advanced degree in the art of procrastination.
Three of Winnie’s books have been nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, and one of those nominations resulted in a win.
Winnie loves to hear from readers. You can connect with her on facebook at or email her at

17 thoughts on “The Accidental Flake”

  1. Thanks for this great information.. I have eaten many a bowl of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, but never thought of their beginnings… We all hear about the “mother of inventions” but you never hear about the “brother’s of inventions”.

  2. Winnie, this is so interesting. I’m amazed at the number of inventions and creations that occurred simply by accident. Most of the time the inventors were trying to make something totally different but wound up with a success in another area.

    I’m quite familiar with CW Post. I only live thirty miles from Post, Texas a town CW Post founded. They have a museum there dedicated to the man.

  3. Wow, Winnie, I haven’t eaten a corn flake in probably years. NO, wait! I use them on top of casseroles sometimes. So I may have consumed them that way, but as a breakfast food in a bowl with milk? Nope! And now I’m really hungry for them.

    (thanks a lot!)

  4. Just goes to show that stale doesn’t necessarily mean inedible. Stale bread makes great bread pudding or ‘lost bread.’ Waste not, eh?

  5. Great post, Winnie! I had no idea! I never was a big cornflake fan, just because I never really liked cold cereal that much in general, but my mom loved them and so did my sisters. This was so interesting to find out how they were invented!

  6. Mary – LOL, I would NEVER refer to you as a flake!

    Jean – Hi! Thanks for stopping by. And oh yes on the stale bread, it makes absolutely FAB bread pudding!!

  7. Elizabeth – LOL on Tony The Tiger. He must be one of THE most recognizable cereal mascots!

    Hi Cheryl! And I loved cold cereal as a kid – and my hubby still has a bowl most nights before he goes to bed.

  8. Hi Winnie, great post. I always love accident goodness! This reminds me of a close college friend who hailed from Battle Creek. Her dad indeed worked for Kellogg’s, but she told us he was a raisin counter making sure an equal amount went into each box of raisin bran. NOT. Oh well. Interesting tidbit about Post, too. Good job.

  9. Ok Winnie. Does this mean they have to let the mixture of wheat go stale before they can make our corn flakes? Think I may not eat anymore. Probably may be good not to know everything about how these things we eat started. Huh? I know when I heard how ice cream was made , by someone I knew who had worked where it was made, I thought I would never eat any again, but that didn’t last long. ( I love ice cream). And, we all know our cheese gets all moldy before they trim that off and sell it to us. (I’m shaking my head sideways). I don’t know how I’ve been missing some of these stories. I thought I was on this site every day, but some times might be before it gets posted. Thanks for this information. Maxie

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