Did You Know The General Foods Company Got Its Start in Michigan? Here’s How
Not to be confused with General Mills, the food company General Foods got its beginnings here in Michigan, thanks to C.W. Post.
C.W. Post had been a sanitarium patient of Dr. John Kellogg's in Battle Creek (yes, THAT Kellogg). While toiling at his job manufacturing farm equipment in 1885, Post had a mental breakdown. After quitting that job and becoming a real estate developer, he suffered another breakdown in 1891. Seeking help for his mental problems, he discovered Dr. Kellogg’s sanitarium. While a patient, he observed the breakfast products that Kellogg was coming up with for the sanitarium inmates. This inspired Post to kick off his own cereal company; it has been suggested that he stole the ideas from Kellogg for cornflakes, a breakfast beverage, and Grape Nuts.
In 1895 he formed the Postum Cereal Company and created his first product: “Postum”, a breakfast grain beverage inspired by a Kellogg’s coffee substitute. This was followed in 1897 by his first attempt at cereal, "Grape-Nuts", which was based on granola biscuits and one of the first ready-to-eat cold cereals.
Grape-Nuts was being advertised as being a cure for appendicitis and in 1907, the magazine 'Collier's Weekly' took that claim to task. That made C.W. angry, so he put out more advertisements that stated the Collier's author was no mental giant, deficient in brain cells. In return, Collier's sued Post and won. Post had to pay a fine of $50,000. The 'appendicitis cure' ads stopped.
Next came the cereal "Elijah's Manna" which later became world-famous as "Post Toasties." Just a few short years later, in 1900, Post’s company was doing well, making an annual sum of three million dollars. Post passed away in 1914.
C.W.'s daughter Marjorie took over the business and re-named the Postum Cereal Company to “General Foods” in 1929. Under this new name, the company sought and won ownership of already-established products: Baker's Chocolate, Birdseye, Jell-O, Kool-Aid, and Maxwell House Coffee.
1953 - General Foods purchases Perkins Products Company (Kool-Aid)
1957 - General Foods introduces Tang breakfast drink.
1959 - General Foods nabs Hostess Products.
1964 - General Foods creates the first freeze-dried coffee, Maxim.
1968 - General Foods buys Burger Chef.
1969 - General Foods buys Rax.
1981 - General Foods buys Oscar Mayer.
1990 - General Foods merges into Kraft Foods Inc.
...and that was the last time we heard of 'General Foods'.
So yeah, we knew about Post cereals and Kellogg's products, but only a handful of us were aware that General Foods got it's start right here in Michigan. The gallery below shows some old products that were made by Post, and others that were made & acquired by General Foods.
Michigan's General Foods Memorabilia & Products
SOME OLD MICHIGAN CEREALS: