Key Concepts

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Written by Mary G. Butler   

PROMOTING BATTLE CREEK’S HEALTH FOODS

It is often said, correctly, that Dr. John Harvey Kellogg had no interest in widely advertising his health foods or in developing a large national market for the products of the Sanitarium.

But he was interested in promoting the use of these foods among former patients at the San, to help them maintain good health.  Over the years, the Sanitarium’s food companies, under the direction of W. K. Kellogg, used a variety of public relations techniques.

Advertisements were placed in the Sanitarium publication, listing the variety of foods available, including oatmeal biscuits and crackers, whole wheat wafers, wheat granola (cereal) and infant food.  A set of samples of each of the 18 products listed was available for 50 cents, selected samples for a quarter.

Dr. Kellogg explained that, “In the effort to meet the necessities of a large Sanitarium, with its great variety of patients, we have produced a number of food preparations adapted to different diseased conditions, the merits of which are such as to secure for them a very large and increasing sale, not only to persons belonging to the invalid class, but to those who wish by ‘good living’ to avoid disease. 

“Unsuccessful attempts have been made to imitate some of these foods under various names.  None are genuine unless bearing our stamp or made under our authority.”

Samples of new products were sent to former customers who had not ordered for some time, or to potential users.  A few weeks later, a follow-up letter went out, saying:

“If this is the first time you have used Battle Creek Sanitarium foods, we have no doubt they have proved quite an innovation.  But a great many changes have been made in the last hundred years, you know.  Our forefathers probably experienced more trouble in revolutionizing their mode of travel that the present generation would in making a rational change in diet.

“But who would go back to the period of saddlebags and stage-coaches?

“The foods which we furnish have been developed after thirty years of study, and are presented in as perfect a form as scientific manufacture can produce.  The experience of thousands of people who have used them daily in their homes has proved that they are really staples, not mere delicacies.

The world is making wonderful progress toward the elimination of kitchen drudgery and simplifying the work of the housewife.  Nothing has had greater effect in this direction than the Health Food Idea of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, which has resulted in placing so many foods, ready to serve, in the hands of the American housewife.”

One of the time-honored techniques of advertising is the celebrity endorsement.  Dr. Kellogg did not neglect this approach, as the Sanitarium Health Food Company proudly claimed the President among its customers.

An ad in the Battle Creek Daily Journal in April 1896 included this “letter” from the company’s Washington, D. C. salesman, which sheds light on the timeless value of ‘access’ in the nation’s capital:

“Yesterday I called on my old-time teacher, Prof. Powell, and through him I met several very fine gentlemen, one of whom introduced me to the steward of the White House.  I sold him two packages of Granose today, so tomorrow morning, March 4, the President [Grover Cleveland] and his wife, with their children, will eat Granose for breakfast. 

The White House steward, in his turn, introduced me to the steward of the family of Chief Justice Fuller, of the United States Supreme Court.  He also bought two packages.

Food that’s good for the President and the Chief Justice must also be good for every sovereign citizen of the Republic.”