The Greatest Marketing Scam Of All Time: Breakfast!

The Greatest Marketing Scam Of All Time: Breakfast!

Breakfast might not be the most important meal of the day after all! Find out why 

What if we tell you that breakfast, the “most important meal of the day”, suggested by experts, and nutritionists worldwide is just a scam? Breakfast is definitely important! You start your day with the pick-me-up meal that your body needs. But the truth is that it’s as important as any other meal.

The Breakfast Scam

So, is breakfast a scam? Yes! breakfast is a scam.
It was invented and promoted by marketing companies in the early 1900s with only one goal: to sell more cereal!

Were they successful? You bet they were.
The entire marketing campaign was about fulfilling corporate greed rather than nutritional value!

Let’s see exactly how these large corporations manipulated consumer behaviour and dietary habits, at the expense of public health. 

That line (or lie) was invented in the 19th century by James Caleb Jackson and John Harvey Kellogg to sell their newly invented Kellogg’s breakfast cereal. 

That’s right! What a genius tagline it is!
A tagline SO BIG that it birthed a major marketing scam; the breakfast scam might just be the longest-running scam in history! A marketing campaign SO big that it convinced millions of people, doctors, experts and nutritionists across the globe to believe it. 

Insane, right?
This marketing campaign was so successful that it changed how we look at breakfast.

Why is Breakfast a Scam?

Before diving deep into how this incredible cereal scam was pulled, let’s look at the history before breakfast.

What did people eat before cereal was invented?

Before the late 19th century in the US, breakfast wasn’t considered special. People just ate whatever was available, often leftovers from the night before.
This changed due to religious fanatics and lobbyists for cereal and bacon companies.
Eggs have always been a popular breakfast food because chickens lay eggs in the morning and they’re easy to prepare. Meat that could be stored, like cured pork, was also common. However, fresh chicken was rarely eaten for breakfast because no one wanted to kill a chicken first thing in the morning. 

So what changed and how did breakfast become so important?

In the late 19th century, however, people began to worry about indigestion. As people moved from farm work to factory and office jobs, thanks to the Industrial Revolution, they spent more time sitting or standing in one place. 

Due to this lifestyle change, heavy farm breakfasts were blamed for causing indigestion, so lighter breakfasts became preferred.

Around this time, during a trend towards healthier living, breakfast cereals were introduced at sanatoriums founded by followers of the newly formed Seventh-day Adventist religion.

These religious health gurus opened sanatoriums and introduced people to vegetarian diets and eating bland, whole wheat as a way to counter ill health. The first cereal, invented by James Caleb Jackson, and the better-known Kellogg’s brand, invented by John Harvey Kellogg, were both born at sanatoriums.

“Jackson was a preacher, and Kellogg, a religious man who believed that masturbation was the greatest evil, which bland, healthy foods like cornflakes could prevent.” 

Over time, this group, led by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, convinced and brainwashed people that their heavily processed, grain-based, and sugar-laden food called “cereal” was a must-have “health food.”

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So how did they execute the plan? 

They used moralising rhetoric to sell the idea of a healthy breakfast in the 19th century which changed how people thought about the meal.

This wasn’t just around religion and health: it also incorporated our dedication and respect for hard work.

In the early 20th century, the idea that if you ate a lighter, healthier breakfast you were going to be more efficient and productive at work added “another moralising layer”, according to ​​Abigail Carroll, author of Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal.

So this is how the cliche that breakfast is the most important meal developed from those early days of cereal.

The Result of Eating Your Daily Cereal

Cereal feeds your sugar addiction, making you think it boosts your energy and supports a healthy “balanced diet.”

In reality, this is what happens inside your body:

  • You get a short-term sugar rush, which quickly crashes.
  • The carbs turn into glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream.
  • Your pancreas works overtime, producing insulin to move the glucose from your blood into your fat cells.
  • Your fat cells grow larger, leading to gradual weight gain.

So, Is Cereal healthy?

A quick look at the back of the box will tell you clearly: Cereal is not healthy! 

Take a good look at the “nutrition” ingredients. Most of it is almost 100% carbohydrates, sugar, and a tiny bit of protein. However, they still claim to be super healthy, rich in protein and other big fancy marketing words. 

Surprisingly, this completely misleading false advertising is legal worldwide.

After vitamins were discovered, it didn’t take long before breakfast cereals were fortified and advertised as a source of every vitamin, making breakfast seem even more important. This happened in the 1940s.

During this time, many women were entering the workforce due to the war and needed quick yet nutritious options to feed their kids in the morning. Advertisers used maternal guilt to market cereal as the best food for children, emphasizing the importance of eating breakfast.

Breakfast is a Scam

The idea of breakfast being the most important meal of the day was pushed by a mix of fear of indigestion, religious moralization, and advertising. It has nothing to do with nutrition or health.

However, it was a campaign to sell more bacon that truly made people believe that breakfast was indeed the most important meal of the day.

Edward Bernays, a public relations expert for the Beech-Nut company and nephew of Sigmund Freud, exploited these health and moral fears to promote bacon. 

He got a doctor to agree that a protein-rich, heavy breakfast of bacon and eggs was healthier than a light breakfast and then sent this statement to about 5,000 doctors for their signatures. Newspapers published the results as if it were a scientific study, adding more credibility to the idea that breakfast was not only important but medically recommended.

Today, we still mostly eat foods like cereals, bacon and eggs, rolls, bagels, and croissants for breakfast. Dinner and lunch never received the same treatment, and our adherence to these traditional breakfast foods continues.

It’s not just the moralisation that got caught up with breakfast that has changed how we see it, says Arndt Anderson, author of Breakfast: A History.

Unlike lunch and dinner, there is something about the meal that lends itself to judgement.

“I think that the breakfast table is one place where you see the most blatant demonstrations of this human tendency to tie what one eats to who one is,” says Arndt Anderson. “People make their lifestyle change at New Year and every morning is like a small New Year’s Day – a chance to start things off in the right direction. So if you have cold pizza for breakfast, it says what sort of person you are.”

The Biggest Scam in History?

So let’s ask this question again: Is breakfast a scam?
By now, you must be convinced that breakfast and cereals, both are scams.

Needless to say, some brilliant marketing campaigns come and go now and then, but “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is without a doubt one of the biggest scams in history.