What’s not to love about Chex cereal? Whether you start your day with a bowl of Rice Chex with milk, snack on Chex Mix in the afternoon, or have a handful of Chocolate Chex for dessert, you can’t go wrong with this classic cereal. Here are 10 things you might not know about the little poofed squares.
1. A PET FOOD COMPANY INVENTED IT.
In 1894, William Danforth created a company to sell animal feed for pets and farm animals. Called the Robinson-Danforth Commission Company, the business sold food for horses, dogs, cats, pigs, and rabbits. Danforth then started making cereal (for humans, not animals) and teamed up with Webster Edgerly, a self-help author who promoted a diet of whole grain cereals. Edgerly also founded a wacky social movement called Ralstonism (more on that later), and Danforth renamed the pet food company Ralston Purina in 1902. In 1986, the company separated into Ralston and Purina, and today, Purina sells pet food while Ralcorp Holdings (formally Ralston) sells private-label food for people.
2. CHEX WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED SHREDDED RALSTON.
Ralston Purina’s cereal, called Shredded Ralston, was the precursor of Chex. The squares of shredded wheat were first available in the mid-1930s, and the background of early boxes displayed a red and white checkerboard (which is still Purina’s logo today). In the 1950s, Ralston Purina tweaked Shredded Ralston’s texture and flavor, rebranding it as Wheat Chex, named after the company’s checkerboard logo.
3. THE CEREAL WAS LINKED TO A BIZARRE CULT.
By teaming up with Danforth, Edgerly hoped to give his followers an easy way to eat whole grains for breakfast. As the founder of Ralstonism, Edgerly wrote books to promote his beliefs on how to achieve longevity, be sexually magnetic, and develop telepathy. Although some of his health-related suggestions were reasonable, Edgerly also had bizarre, racist ideas. He warned that watermelons are poisonous to most Caucasians and weak (non-white) people should be castrated.
He also had delusions of grandeur, stating that Ralstonism "is as necessary as food, light or water. This movement is the grandest, noblest, and already the most far-reaching power that has originated in the present age." Edgerly bought land in New Jersey to form a utopian community for his followers, but Ralstonism (thankfully) never became as popular as he hoped.
4. ELIZABETH TAYLOR APPEARED ON AN EARLY BOX.
In 1950, Elizabeth Taylor appeared on a box of Shredded Ralston. Wearing a white wedding dress and veil, Taylor’s image promoted the MGM film Father of The Bride, featuring Taylor, Spencer Tracy, and Joan Bennett. The film was remade in 1991 with Steve Martin and Diane Keaton, but none of those cast members appeared on boxes of Chex.
5. HOMEMADE CHEX MIX WAS POPULAR BEFORE IT HIT STORES.
Although Chex cereal was popular as a breakfast food, people also enjoyed baking the cereal with nuts, crackers, pretzels, butter, Worcestershire sauce, and spices. In the mid-1950s, Chex boxes featured recipes for Chex party mixes, and a Ralston Purina executive’s wife reportedly made a well-received homemade Chex mix for a party. In 1987, consumers were able to buy ready-made packages of Chex Mix (traditional and cheddar) at stores, but recipes for homemade Chex Mix are still popular today.
6. CHARLIE BROWN AND SNOOPY LOVE CHEX.
In the 1980s and 1990s, characters from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip appeared in commercials for Chex Party Mix. The Peanuts/Chex partnership also spawned toys (like a Snoopy doghouse), tins of Chex Mix decorated with the Peanuts crew, and print advertisements.
7. IF YOU CRAVE FROSTED OR STRAWBERRY CHEX, YOU'RE OUT OF LUCK.
Over the past few decades, some beloved Chex flavors have come and gone. For those who loved Frosted Chex or Strawberry Chex, you’re sadly out of luck. Other flavors, such as Multi-Bran and Graham Chex, have also been discontinued to make room for new flavors. Most recently, in 2015, General Mills discontinued gluten-free Chex oatmeal after it didn’t sell enough units. Although some flavors don't last more than a few years, Chex fans have more flavors and products to choose from than ever before—from honey nut-flavored cereal and caramel crunch Chex Mix to brownie Muddy Buddies.
8. CHEX SPONSORED SPACE PATROL.
Kids in the early 1950s went crazy for Space Patrol, a science fiction TV show about space travelers in the 30th century. Chex sponsored Space Patrol, which was so popular that hundreds of episodes aired on TV and radio. Space Patrol characters even appeared on Chex boxes, which included 24 Space Patrol pictures (optical illusions, trading cards, and badges) that kids could collect.
9. CHEX COMPUTER GAMES WERE A THING.
In 1996, some Chex boxes included a special prize: a CD-ROM for a game called Chex Quest. In the game, players take on the role of the Chex Warrior, shooting at green creatures while avoiding getting slimed. Based on the game The Ultimate Doom, Chex Quest was the first computer game to appear in a box of cereal. Chex Quest became so popular that Chex Quest 2 and 3 were later released in 1997 and 2008, respectively, although the second and third games weren’t released in Chex boxes.
10. CHEX WAS THE FIRST CEREAL COMPANY TO PUT A DOCTOR ON THE BOX.
In 2005, cardiologist Nieca Goldberg appeared on boxes of Wheat and Multi-Bran Chex. The boxes promoted her book, Women Are Not Small Men: Life Saving Strategies For Preventing and Healing Heart Disease In Women, as well as diet and exercise tips for heart health. "I always associated cereal boxes with having an athlete on the box, so now I think of myself as sort of an 'athlete for health,'" Goldberg told HealthDay.