Like reaching for the coffee pot, pulling out a bright yellow box from the cupboard is just as synonymous with an early morning start. Whether you are two or ninety-two, for seventy-six years, Cheerios has been a breakfast staple, being poured into bowls all across the United States.
It 1941, food scientist Lester Borchardt had a light bulb moment. General Mills, his employer, wanted to create a product that would compete with Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. Up until then, wheat, corn and rice had dominated the cereal market, but a cereal with an oat base had yet to break through. So Borchardt and his team began inventing a machine that could puff oat-based cereal into shapes.
After months of investing both time and money into the project, with little success, management at General Mills decided to scrap the project. Borchardt, however, was convinced they were onto to something big, so he persisted. Not long after, the machine was puffing oat flour into several different shapes and boxes of Cheerioats began stocking the shelves of grocery stores.
Why is it Called Cheerios?
As the first ready-to-eat oat cereal, they highlighted this in the name: Cheerioats. However, Quaker Oats claimed that by using the word “oats” in the name, they were infringing upon Quaker Oats trademark. So General Mills changed the name to Cheerios in 1945 to reflect the “o” shape that was pumped out by the puffing gun. Although they originally tested ten different shapes, they decided on the floating ring that named the “o” in Cheerios.
General Mills has continued to market Cheerios as the healthy oat cereal. In an interview with Adweek, General Mills marketing director Susanne Prucha noted, “When Cheerios was launched in 1941, it served two key purposes. It brought the health benefits of oats to everyone, and, more importantly, it brought families to the breakfast table.”
Great question! Before Cheerioats hit the market in 1941, a list of suggested names was put in front of consumer groups in five different cities. Cheerioats was the name that was selected based on the results of General Mills listening to those consumer groups.
— Cheerios (@cheerios) March 22, 2018
Since 1976, General Mills has released 16 additional (and sweeter) flavors of Cheerios. The first variety released was Cinnamon Nut Cheerios, which gave way to the famed Honey Nut Cheerio, which was released three years later. Based on data from 2016, Honey Nut Cheerios was the most popular General Mills cereal sold during the 2016 back-to-school season, with 38 million boxes sold.
Every week, General Mills produces and ships almost half a million cases (12-14 boxes per case) across the U.S. Although flavors like Berry Burst and Dulce de Leche aren’t part of this cohort and were shortly discontinued after their release, flavors like 1988’s Apple Cinnamon, 1992’s Multigrain, 1995’s Frosted and even 2009’s Banana Nut have stood the test of time.
What flavor do you grab off the shelf? Do you reach for the classic Cheerios, the most popular Honey Nut or a more peculiar flavor? Comment below and let us know. Thanks for reading why is Cheerios called Cheerios! #whyisitcallecheerios
Lauren Dunn is a contributor for Rewind and Capture. With a passion for food and wine she received a degree in agricultural journalism and has put this to use as a cellar apprentice from Italy to Sonoma. When she’s not in the vineyard she’s training for open water swims or catching a flick at the cinema.