Nestle announced yesterday that it plans to reduce the levels of sugar and sodium in popular cereals sold in over 140 countries worldwide. Nestle and General Mills have been in a joint venture since 1990 to sell Nestle-brand cereals such as Cheerios and Cookie Crisp. Together they plan to cut an average of 24% in sugar to 9 grams or less, and 12% in sodium to 135mg or less from 20 cereal brands popular with children by 2015. They also plan to boost whole grain and calcium in these cereals - affecting roughly 5.3 billion, or about half of the total servings of cereals sold each year.
Cold cereal was unheard of until two innovative sanitarium owners found a way to create supplementary nutrition for their patients. In 1863 Dr. Caleb Jackson was first in succeeding to make brittle cakes that were only palatable if soaked overnight in milk. He called it granula. Soon after, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg mixed wheat flour, oatmeal and cornmeal to make a mixture he also called granula, but then promptly changed the letter “u” to “o”, turning granula into granola to avoid legal problems. Obviously Kellogg’s granola was a big success, and he went on to create a lasting cereal empire that now accounts for nearly half of all cereal produced in the world. However, I don’t think Froot Loops and Cocoa Krispies were part of the original vision.
Nestle and General Mills have been reducing the levels of salt and sugar in some cereals since 2003, and yet almost half of cereals on the shelf today, specifically those marketed to kids, have over 12 grams of sugar per serving.
For a time, granola was lost in obscurity over the market’s preference for these more sugary products. It was revived in the mid 1960s when it became popular with the Hippies as a more healthful alternative to the sugary cereals in the market. Granola became a popular breakfast cereal when Heartland Natural Cereal introduced the first mass-produced granola in 1972. Within a year Quaker, Kellogg’s, and General Mills had granola in the stores.
Over the years, granola has undergone a lot of iterations, striving to meet the demands of the market. Forty years later there are many different variations, flavors, and in most cases just as much sugar as their Froot Loops counter parts. I like granola on my plain yogurt, but I'm well aware that even a 1/4 cup serving has 7 grams of sugar! Maybe it’s time to wake up ole Tony the Tiger and ask him to revisit that original ‘healthful alternative’ recipe?
Filed under: Nutrition