The first ready-to-eat breakfast cereal was actually John Harvey Kellogg’s granola. But it was based on James Caleb Jackson’s earlier invention, in 1863, which he called granula. So, although Kellogg’s granola was not the first cereal made, or even the first cold cereal, it was probably the first that we would consider a modern cereal.
Unlike Kellogg’s version, Caleb’s cereal needed to be soaked in water before it was eaten. It was fourteen years later when Kellogg unveiled his granola product at his Battle Creek Sanitorium. By 1881, his company, Kellogg’s Sanitas Food Company, was selling two tons of granola a week.
The video below describes the development and history of granola. Watch it below or see it on Youtube: How Did Granola Get Its Name?
You know what granola is, and you probably are aware of what granola has come to represent. For instance, you know pretty much what is meant when a person is referred to as “granola.”
The term encompasses health food, vegetarianism, natural living, the counterculture, environmentalism, and a sort of preoccupation with 1960’s values. But it’s really just a crunchy food made of grains.
Where Does Granola Come From?
The original granola is similar to the European muesli which was invented by the Swiss physician Max Bircher-Benner, and it’s made by toasting various grains, especially oats, and putting in fruits and nuts. It most certainly did come about as part of a natural health movement and was always associated with vegetarianism, not just from the 60’s, but from its beginning.
Who Invented Granola?
The first granola was developed in 1863 by James Caleb Jackson. Jackson was a health reformer and he was the director of what we would call a health spa, but in those days was called a sanitorium. Before that, by the way, we was a hardcore Christian abolitionist.
He made a grain based food that he called granula, not granola. Jackson got the name from a Latin word for grain, granum. Now, you may have heard about the health claims associated with granola, but Jackson’s claims would just bowl you over: He said that his granula was a ‘pure’ food that would prepare you for the second coming. Not only that, but it would hasten the arrival of the second coming. It would help make you calm. It would give you better Christian values and even get you into progressive politics. And, it would reduce carnal desire.
So, that was back in 1863, but in 1878 John Harvey Kellogg, you know, the cereal guy, reintroduced it at his own sanatorium in Battle Creek.
The original inventor obviously did not like his use of the name, so Kellogg changed the spelling to granola with an ‘o’ instead of a u. Ola, it just so happened, was a popular ending for food product names at that time, so it worked out well.
Kellogg wasn’t just a health food advocate, by the way; he had his own religious agenda. But later on, corn flakes sort of overshadowed the granola cereal so the copyright was allowed to lapse. Now, anyone can use the name granola, and that is how it managed to become a general rather than a proprietary term. Granola was also taken up by others who gave it a more right-wing, and not so rosy bent. And this is really because of the sort of plastic nature of the word natural, which is able to be appropriated for whatever agenda you might have. By the time it came to be associated with the holistic thinking of the ’60’s, well, Jackson would have been shocked, as free love and self-exploration weren’t exactly what he had in mind.