General Foods Corporation was a company whose direct predecessor was established in the United States by Charles William Post as the Postum Cereal Company in 1895.

General Foods Corporation
PredecessorPostum Cereal Company (1895–1929)
Founded1929; 95 years ago (1929)
Defunct1990; 34 years ago (1990)
FateMerged into Kraft Foods Inc.
SuccessorMondelez International
Kraft Heinz
JDE Peet's
Post Consumer Brands
HeadquartersRye Brook, New York, U.S.
ProductsBreakfast cereals, cereal coffee
ParentPhilip Morris (1985–1990)

The company changed its name to "General Foods" in 1929, after several corporate acquisitions, by Marjorie Merriweather Post after she inherited the established cereal business from her father C. W. Post. In November 1985, General Foods was acquired by Philip Morris Companies (now Altria) for $5.6 billion, the largest non-oil acquisition at the time. In December 1988, Philip Morris acquired Kraft Foods Inc., and, in 1990, combined the two food companies as Kraft General Foods. The "General Foods" name was dropped in 1995 with the corporate name being reverted back to Kraft Foods; a line of caffeinated hot beverage mixes continued to carry the General Foods International name until 2010.




C. W. Post, founder of the Post Cereal Company, predecessor of General Foods

General Foods background can be traced to the Post Cereal Company, founded by C. W. Post in 1895 in Battle Creek, Michigan. Post was a patient at the Battle Creek Sanitarium (run by John Harvey Kellogg, brother of Kellogg Company founder Will Keith Kellogg). Post was inspired by the diet there to start his food company (and become a rival to the Kellogg brothers, who sold their own breakfast cereals). He invested $78 in his initial equipment and supplies and set up manufacturing in a barn on what was known as the 'Old Beardsley Farm'.[1] His first product was Postum, a "cereal beverage" alternative to coffee made from wheat and molasses. The first cereal, Grape-Nuts, was developed in 1897 followed by Elijah's Manna in 1904 which was renamed Post Toasties in 1908.[2]

In 1907 Collier's Weekly published an article questioning the claim made in advertisements for Grape Nuts that it could cure appendicitis. C. W. Post responded with advertisements questioning the mental capacity of the article's author, and Collier's Weekly sued for libel. The case was heard in 1910, and Post was fined $50,000. The decision was overturned on appeal, but advertisements for Postum products stopped making such claims.[3]

General Foods


C.W. Post died in 1914, and his daughter Marjorie Merriweather Post took over the company. The Postum Cereals company acquired others such as Jell-O (gelatin dessert) in 1925, Walter Baker & Company (chocolate) in 1927, Maxwell House (coffee) in 1928, and other food brands.[citation needed]

By far the most important acquisition in 1929 was of the frozen-food company owned by Clarence Birdseye,[4] called "General Seafood Corporation". Birdseye (December 9, 1886 - October 7, 1956) was one of the most important entrepreneurs in the history of the food industry. Born in New York City, he became interested in the frozen preservation of food during the course of working as a fur trader in Labrador between 1912 and 1916. By 1923, he had developed a commercially viable process for quick-freezing foods using a belt mechanism, which he patented. In 1924, with backing from three investors, he formed the "General Seafoods Company" in Gloucester, Massachusetts to produce frozen haddock fillets packed in plain cardboard boxes.[citation needed]

(Left): General Foods Cookbook launched in 1932; (right): magazine ad for the Dream Whip topping in the 1960s

The founder's daughter, Marjorie Merriweather Post, was the first to become excited about the prospects for the frozen foods business. In 1926, she had put into port at Gloucester on her yacht, Sea Cloud, and was served a luncheon meal which, she learned to her amazement, had been frozen six months before. Despite her enthusiasm, it took Post three years to convince Postum's management to acquire the company. Postum paid $10.75 million for a 51% interest and its partner, Goldman Sachs, paid $12.5 million for the other 49%.[5] Following this acquisition, Postum, Inc changed its name to General Foods Corporation. Goldman sold its share back to General Foods in 1932, apparently at a slight loss.[citation needed]

Shortly after the acquisition, General Foods began test-marketing an expanded line of frozen foods, but the company quickly realized that a packaging process alone would not be sufficient to market frozen products in stores. To be sold, the packages had to be kept frozen while on display, so Birdseye engineers began development of a freezer cabinet designed specifically to hold frozen foods. The cabinet, which first appeared in 1934, required a great deal of space and electricity, which were not readily available in most grocery stores of the period. For those stores that could accommodate them, the payback was immediate. Housewives quickly realized that keeping packages of frozen food in the icebox could mean fresher meals and fewer trips to the market.[6][citation needed]

The company published a cookbook in 1932 called the General Foods Cook Book dedicated "To the American homemaker". Five editions were published between 1932 and 1937. The book includes photographs (among which is "General Foods offers over twenty famous products for your well-stocked pantry shelf") and a subject index.[7]

General Foods was acquired by Philip Morris Companies (now Altria) in 1985. In 1989, Phillip Morris merged General Foods with Kraft Foods Inc., which it had acquired in 1987, to form the Kraft General Foods division. The cereal brands of Nabisco were acquired in 1993. In 1995 Kraft General Foods was reorganized, and the Kraft Foods name was restored. On November 15, 2007, Kraft announced it would spin off Post Cereals and merge that business with Ralcorp Holdings.[8] That merger was completed August 4, 2008,[9] at which time the official name of the company became Post Foods, LLC.

(Left): Company's longest-lasting logo, designed by Walter Dorwin Teague Associates, used from 1962 to 1984; (right): final logo, designed by Saul Bass, used from 1984 until the merger to Kraft Foods Inc. in 1990

See also



  1. ^ Dunbar, Willis (February 17, 1948). Post Cereal Company (auido). Western Michigan at Work. Kalamazoo, Michigan: WKZO. OCLC 1026388957. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  2. ^ "Elijah's Manna Cereal".
  3. ^ Pendergrast, Mark (2010). Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World. New York: Basic Books. pp. 101–102. ISBN 978-0-465-01836-9.
  4. ^ Details of Birdseye's remarkable career may be found in American National Biography, Vol. 2, pp. 808-9.
  5. ^ Following the sale, Birdseye remained in the frozen foods business. In 1932, he established "Birds Eye Frozen Foods", which by later in the decade was selling almost 100 different frozen products. It is not immediately clear how General Foods came to acquire the product name, but Birds Eye frozen vegetables were a major component of its business until the division was sold to Dean Foods in 1993.
  6. ^ The space and power requirements for the burgeoning frozen-food section was one factor which led to the rapid development of larger self-service supermarkets beginning in the late 1930s.
  7. ^ General Foods Consumer Service Department General Foods Cook Book. New York: General Foods Corporation
  8. ^ "Kraft Foods to Merge Its Post Cereals Business With Ralcorp". Kraft Foods. Retrieved 2007-11-15.
  9. ^ "Ralcorp Announces Completion of Post Cereals Merger". Ralcorp Holdings, Inc. Archived from the original on 2008-12-18. Retrieved 2008-09-08.