Mary E. Barber and Kellogg’s nearly century-long commitment to wellbeing

Kellogg is the food industry’s original wellbeing company and nearly a century ago, made a bold and innovative move to become one of the first food companies to hire a dietitian.

In 1923, the company hired Registered Dietitian Mary E. Barber, to establish one of the industry’s first professional home economics departments. Barber developed recipes using Kellogg’s cereals, and began a company tradition of providing consumers with the latest information about diet and nutrition.  

Prior to joining Kellogg, Mary was a faculty member at Columbia University, where she graduated with specialization in physiological chemistry, nutrition and household appliances. She also led Columbia’s food research work.

Mary hit the ground running when she arrived in Battle Creek – Kellogg’s hometown – developing an entirely new department to educate and advocate for the positive health benefits of Kellogg’s foods, particularly the original Bran cereal.

Barber’s sphere of influence spread well beyond the walls of Kellogg’s headquarters during her 25 years at the company:

  • In her first year on the job, Mary sent more than 594,000 printed materials to stakeholders all over the United States. She communicated with everyone from toxicologists to elementary school kids.

  • In 1926, Mary was asked to explore adding more honey to Kellogg recipes, so she became – and remained – a member of three beekeeper associations.

  • In 1930, Mary was the first person to organize an in-flight meal on an airplane when she hosted 15 presidents from various Detroit women’s organizations. It was a collaborative effort between Kellogg, whose All-Bran muffins were among the menu items, and Ford Motor Company, which supplied the plane.

  • During World War II, Kellogg loaned Mary to the United States military so she could develop recipes for the troops, charging the government just $1 for her services.

  • Under Mary’s guidance in 1938, Kellogg’s Pep cereal became the first cereal fortified with Vitamin D and had the designation listed on its packaging.

  • Do you love Rice Krispies Treats? You can thank Mary for those! She created the original Rice Krispies Treat in 1939, then known as the Krispie Marshmallow Squares.

  • Mary understood the power of breakfast, especially for children, so she developed an “Early Bird Breakfast Club Kit” that she sent to teachers. Teachers distributed these kits to students, who kept track of what they ate for breakfast every day and scored points to win prizes.

  • Mary served as president of the American Dietetic Association, vice president of the American Home Economics Association and president of the Michigan Dietetics Association.

Mary Barber laid the foundation for our company’s approach to health and wellbeing.

Today, our W.K. Kellogg Institute for Food and Nutrition is home to some of the most devoted minds in nutrition, digestive wellness and food science. Whether it’s improving existing products or introducing new foods such as our Hi! Happy Inside digestive wellness products, Kellogg remains committed to anticipating consumer needs and preferences and nourishing families so they can flourish and thrive. 

 

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