As one of the last 16 people on earth who genuinely enjoy Grape Nuts, I have long restrained myself from digging too deep into the cereal’s history and nutritional composition for fear of losing my child-like innocence and shit.
Today, however, that all changed. Via the Wall Street Journal, we learn that Grape Nuts isn’t made of grapes or nuts — and that claims of the cereal’s goodness and healthiness were the product of something called “marketing”:
The founder of Postum Cereals not only cooked up Grape Nuts in Battle Creek, Mich., around 1898, but also concocted some of the earliest mass advertising to peddle it. A 1910 ad said Grape Nuts had “phosphate of potash” for building “brain and nerves.” It didn’t. Another said the Panama Canal couldn’t have been dug without Grape Nuts because it “keeps almost indefinitely in any climate.” Other ads claimed it prevented malaria and appendicitis. It doesn’t.
By 1914, when Mr. Post apparently killed himself — shortly after an appendicitis attack — Grape Nuts had cut its curative claims to one: constipation. Yet the ads kept coming: In the ’60s, a boy grabs a woman in a swimming pool; she’s his girlfriend’s mom. “Oh, no, Mrs. Burke!” he exclaims. “I thought you were Dale!” In the ’70s, woodsman Euell Gibbons asks, “Ever eat a pine tree?”
Post recently kicked-off a new ad campaign to reverse slumping sales of Grape Nuts. The new campaign is aimed at 45-year-old men who — and I’m not shitting you here — “aspire to it” as a breakfast cereal:
“We need to bring it back to life in a relevant way,” says Kelley Peters, the “insights” director who charts Grape Nuts psychographics for Ralcorp’s $5 million resuscitation attempt. Her target: men 45 years old and up. “Men aspire to it,” she says. “It’s strong and stern, the father figure of cereals.” Her marketing chief, Jennifer Marchant, points out: “It tends to break your teeth sometimes.”
Brand marketers get paid an awful lot of money to do their jobs, so far be it from me to say they’re putting too much stock into men’s psychographic relationship with breakfast foods. Case in point — last week I had Frankenberry and now I’m scared of gay monsters, so I guess that tells us something.