How Quaker Oats Made US Breakfast History

A steaming bowl of old-fashioned oatmeal dotted with raw nuts, cranberries, and chunks of apple, sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled with maple syrup is a perfect way to warm up on a chilly morning. Crunchy rolled oat granola with yogurt, sliced peaches, strawberries, and blueberries is a nutritious start to any day. Packets of maple and brown sugar or strawberries and cream instant oatmeal are great for camping breakfasts. These days, everyone is looking for a fast fix in the morning. Check out our strawberry overnight oats recipe for a healthy ready-to-go breakfast that is filled with flavor and sure to start your day right. 

Incredibly versatile, oats are a delicious and nutritious addition to no-bake oatmeal cookies and traditional cookies. Oatmeal bread makes for delectable toast and oats are also great as crumbles on cobblers and pies. Oat flour makes fantastic banana and zucchini bread or zucchini oatmeal cookies. How did oats become a popular breakfast staple?

It's all in the name

Quaker Oats are considered the benchmark for all other oatmeal and oat cereal brands. Just how did the company come by its reputation and how did it make breakfast history?

According to Quaker Oats legend, it all started in the 1850s when John Stuart opened up the North Star Mills Company in Canada, followed by a German immigrant named Ferdinand Schumacher who founded the German Mills American Cereal Company in Akron, Ohio, in 1856. Then, after a move to the United States, John Stuart and his son Robert opened the North Star Mills Company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1873, as Company Histories notes.

Around that same time, Henry Seymour and William Heston, owners of the Quaker Mill in Ravenna, Ohio, decided to protect their assets by applying for a trademark for the Quaker Oats name and the logo of the Quaker man, which became iconic as a symbol of quality and value. Quaker Oats reports that the men received the very first trademark for the cereal brand in 1877.

Entrepreneurs with an eye for promotion

Ferdinand Schumacher brought his unique oat processing and grinding technique with him from Germany and was likely the inventor of pre-cooked rolled oats, as Ohio History Central reveals. He developed the new style of oats as an answer to the demand for quicker oat preparation methods. During the American Civil War, Schumacher's oats were a mainstay for military troops. In 1870, Schumacher ran his first known cereal advertisement in the Akron Beacon Journal newspaper, states Postcard History. His rolled oats soon became a nationwide success.

In 1881, entrepreneur Henry Parsons Crowell purchased the struggling Quaker Oat Mill, according to the company. Crowell was a clever man with an eye on the future. He realized that newspapers and magazines could be a lucrative way to reach new customers. So, in 1882 Crowell launched the first national magazine advertising campaign for a breakfast cereal featuring his Quaker Oats.

Taking Quaker Oats on the road by rail and mail

By 1886, with high demand and hungry consumers, the oats game had become competitive. Small businesses struggled to keep up and smart businessmen decided that merging might be the best way to succeed. In 1888, Henry Parsons Crowell opted to join forces with his former competitors Ferdinand Schumacher and the Stuarts to form The American Cereal Company by incorporating with seven other prominent oat millers, according to Company Histories.

In 1890, reports, the American Cereal Company created one of the first direct-to-consumer promotionals by sending every mailbox holder in Portland, Oregon a half-ounce sample box of Quaker Oats. Adding to this promotional deal, the American Cereal Company brazenly painted its name and logo on every car of a cross-country train running from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Portland, Oregon, branding it the "all-Quaker Oats train," according to the Quaker Oats official story,

Quaker Oats is a trendsetter

Setting trends rather than keeping up with them has always been a signature of Quaker Oats. In 1891, the Quaker Oats box featured a recipe for oatmeal bread on its back label — another first for the food industry. Over the years, hundreds of recipes have appeared on the Quaker Oats box label. These days, their official website features dozens of recipes for everything from bread and cookies, to savory dishes, and clever versions of breakfast oatmeal, of course. Brands everywhere now feature tips and recipes on their packaging. In another first, the company also built buzz with promotional campaigns including pieces of fine china in some of their boxes (per

By 1901, the American Cereal Company had expanded its range to include baby food, hominy, wheat cereals, and cornmeal alongside its mainstay oat cereal line. Seeing the value of the Quaker Oats brand, the American Cereal Company rebranded itself as the Quaker Oat Company with Henry Parsons Crowell at the helm. In 1922, Robert Stuart's son, John, become the president while his other son R. Douglas Stuart worked his natural promotional talents to continue building the brand, according to Britannica.

Quaker Oats are heart healthy

The company continued to launch new products and refine its brand, maintaining its claims of value, integrity, and quality. Quaker Oats reveals, that in 1908 the company introduced prepackaged oat cakes to its line and the iconic cylinder-shaped package hit the shelves in 1915. The company changed breakfast forever in 1922 when it created quick-cooking oats and marketed them as the first convenience food. 1966 saw the introduction of instant oats to the scene and delicious flavors soon followed. Quaker Oats broke new ground again in 1981 when it launched its chewy oat granola bars, competing with Nature Valley crunchy oat granola bars, circa 1973.

Quaker Oats claims that due to the fiber content, oats are exceptionally good for heart health. And, in 1997 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the company's claims that its oatmeal, naturally high in soluble fiber, is a heart-healthy food, according to the Quaker Oats website. Quaker Oats now displays the claim: "soluble fiber from oatmeal as part of a low saturated fat, low cholesterol diet, may reduce the risk of heart disease," on the labels of their oatmeal products.

Quaker Oats is now in their 145th year, as of 2022. It is more successful than ever before and has gone from its humble grain miller origins to a behemoth owning dozens of brands. The company was acquired by PepsiCo in 2001 for a cool $14 billion, (per the Los Angeles Times).