The Origin of the Word “Granola”

Granola was “invented” in the 1870s by Dr. John Kellogg, of Battle Creek, Michigan. Dr. Kellogg ran a famous sanitarium to which patrons came to practice healthy living. Among his recommendations was that food be prepared the old-fashioned way, with whole grains. Whole-grain bread was baked in large ovens located right on the grounds of the sanitarium. Dr. Kellogg realized that large amounts of waste were being generated in the form of the crumbs that fell to the bottom of the ovens.  He realized that he could collect these crumbs and place them in bowls to be served for breakfast. He called his invention “granula.”

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When Dr. Kellogg learned, however, that “granula” had already been trademarked, he changed the name to “granola.”  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, both of these words are most likely related to the words grains and granules, as well as granular, granulated, and so on.

“Granola” slipped out of use. Then, around 1970, processed food manufacturers began to use the term for a variety of “breakfast cereals” and snack bars containing rolled oats, nuts, dried fruit and other Foods. Its powerful association with whole grains, good nutrition, and good health made it a particularly attractive word to the processed foods industry. 

Today there are hundreds if not thousands of products with the word “granola” in their title. Most of them contain long lists of hard-to-pronounce ingredients that would be virtually impossible to reproduce in our own kitchens. These are all clues that such products are not the same as food.  If you do love granola though, find a recipe on line, and make it at home.

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2 thoughts on “The Origin of the Word “Granola”

  1. Your origin story is incorrect. Kellogg copied Dr. James Caleb Jackson’s breakfast cereal, Granula, which Jackson introduced around 1863. Jackson and Kellogg both were in the water cure business- Jackson in Dansville, NY, and Kellogg in Battle Creek, Michigan. When Kellogg introduced his Granula in 1878, he was sued by Jackson, and then changed the name to Granola.

    • Here’s yet another take on the story, with a couple of small differences and a similar ending. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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