In Featured, Packaging

Walk in to any grocery store today and you’ll find an entire aisle dedicated to breakfast cereals.


Some still carry the original intention of a healthy breakfast that aids digestion, while most are considered sugary snacks. One element most of these cereals have in common: the box.


In the late 19th century James Caleb Jackson invented Granula, the first breakfast cereal. It had to be soaked in milk overnight for breakfast the following morning and didn’t have the appealing taste we love today.


A few decades pass and John Harvey Kellogg, a distinguished physician, changed the production process of breakfast cereal creating a lighter crispier breakfast cereal that could be consumed immediately. It was also packaged in a plain brown cardboard box, setting the stage for the iconic cereal box.


The health obsessed Kellogg had a younger brother, William, who had a 6th grade education and worked in the sanitarium with John.  William had a different agenda for the cereal. He saw the potential for adding sugar and other flavors to the cereal to appeal to the public. John feared his reputation as a doctor would be ruined so William bought him out of the business and changed the company focus from health to mass-appeal. Turns out, his plan to add sugar and expand the flavor options worked.


This was all happening in the early- to mid-1900s, when people started commuting further to get to work and dual-income homes were on the rise.  This created an even bigger opportunity for quick breakfast options that are tasty and, sometimes, healthy for the whole family.


The marketing minds in the cereal companies didn’t wait long to add bright colors and cartoon characters to the branding and boxes.  The colorful displays were an important way for cereal companies to display promotions and create memorability.


Today, cereal boxes still feature the same bright colors, box tops to earn prizes, and toys and other prizes. Read about more innovations in cereal box packaging here.  There’s also a community of people who are cereal box collectors; while they’re just dollars on the shelf, a collector box can sell for over $2,000.


The biggest difference today is the rising pressure on companies to utilize sustainable practices. Over the next 10-20 years, many people predict that the boxes we see on the shelf today will be replaced with stand up resealable bags. What do you think?


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