A Spoonful of Wheaties Facts

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Maybe because it doesn't get much competition from Little Chocolate Donuts (the donuts of champions), but more probably because of its genius marketing, Wheaties has been a breakfast staple for little athletes everywhere. Let's take a look at look back at some of the stories that make this cereal so great.

1. They were almost called Nutties

Wheaties were invented when a dietician working for the Washburn Crosby Company was preparing bran gruel in 1924 and spilled some onto the hot stove top. The droplets sizzled and then hardened into tiny "flakes." The clumsy cook found them to be far tastier than standard gruel. He informed his superiors of his discovery, and 36 recipe variations later the company developed a wheat flake that was strong enough to withstand packaging and shipping. The name "Wheaties" was chosen via a company-wide contest, beating out other suggestions such as "Nutties" and "Gold Medal Wheat Flakes."

2. It's the Cereal that got Ronald Reagan to Hollywood

aron.jpgIn 1937, General Mills sponsored a contest in which the public voted for their favorite Wheaties announcer (the voice that intoned Wheaties commercials during ballgames). The winner was a sportscaster from Des Moines, Iowa, named Ronald Reagan (who called the play-by-play using his nickname "Dutch"), and his prize was an all-expense trip to the Cubs' spring training camp in California. While there, he managed to get a screen test at Warner Brothers, and we hear that he eventually got involved in politics"¦

3. Cover Models: A Few Famous Firsts

Picture 34.pngIn its early years, Wheaties put photos of famous sports figures on the side panels or back of their boxes. Lou Gehrig was the first athlete to appear on the box, and the first female was not a sportswoman, per se, but an aviatrix "“ Elinor Smith. Wheaties didn't put a woman on the front of their box until 1984 (over 30 years after the first male athlete appeared in that spot), when gymnast Mary Lou Retton graced the cover. The first athlete to appear on the front of the box was decathlete Bob Richards in 1958. Believe it or not, of all the sports represented on the Wheaties box, football did not make the front cover until 1986 when Walter Payton added his own brand of sweetness to the mix.

4. Where the Slogan Came from

One of history's most enduring cereal box slogans was conceived on the spur of the moment. When Wheaties first started sponsoring radio broadcasts of Minneapolis Millers baseball games in 1933, their agreement included a large sign at the ballpark promoting the cereal. When asked what he wanted the sign to say, an ad exec for Wheaties thought for a moment then blurted out, "The breakfast of champions." The company eventually sponsored various baseball teams across the country, and testimonials by famous athletes became a staple of Wheaties radio commercials.

5. Fan Favorites

Wheaties_Jordan.jpgAs part of their 75th anniversary celebration in 1999, Wheaties asked the public to vote for their favorite "Wheaties Champion." The final tally:
10.  1980 U.S. Men's Olympic Hockey Team
9.    Jackie Robinson
8.    John Elway
7.    Walter Payton
6.    Cal Ripken, Jr.
5.    Tiger Woods
4.    Mary Lou Retton
3.    Babe Ruth
2.    Lou Gehrig
1.    Michael Jordan

July 20, 2008 - 11:13pm
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