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Entries about Minnesota history from MNopedia are made available through a partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society and with funding from the Legacy Amendment's Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

For almost a century, Malt-O-Meal has been made in Northfield

historical photo of ames mill
Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
Northfield’s Ames Mill

The Malt-O-Meal Company was founded by John S. Campbell in Owatonna in 1919 and grew to be one of the top cereal manufacturers in the country. Since 1927, Malt-O-Meal cereal products have been made in Northfield and sold internationally.

John S. Campbell grew up in a milling family and often ate bland hot wheat cereal. He decided to make a new breakfast food with more flavor that was easier to prepare. After experimenting with some ingredients, he found a good formula: a mix of wheat farina and malted barley. Campbell called this new cereal “Malt-O-Meal.” He formed the Campbell Cereal Company in 1919 to make Malt-O-Meal exclusively.

At first, Campbell made and sold Malt-O-Meal cereal by himself in an old creamery building in Owatonna, Minnesota. The company moved into Owatonna’s Simpson Mill in 1925 and then to the Ames Mill in Northfield in 1927. Afterward, Northfield became the home of Malt-O-Meal manufacturing.

The company’s first customers included grocery stores and food brokers in Minnesota and northern Iowa. They learned about Malt-O-Meal through direct sales, word of mouth, and product samples.


As his cereal grew in popularity, Campbell started advertising it to a larger market. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Campbell Cereal Company sponsored radio programs and developed toy giveaways to increase sales. Some of their most popular radio shows included “Steamboat Bill,” “Under the Sea with Jack Westaway,” and “Tena and Tim.”

In the 1940s, the Campbell Cereal Company came up with a new marketing slogan: “It’s Smooth and Creamy, and Double-Flavored.” This slogan appeared on cereal boxes, radio commercials, and local print ads during this era. The company’s first nation-wide Malt-O-Meal cereal print ad appeared in Ladies’ Home Journal in 1946 as well as other periodicals. It also created popular radio and early television commercials. These marketing efforts led to dramatic increases in sales and production of Malt-O-Meal in post-World War II America.

The Campbell Cereal Company changed its name to the Malt-O-Meal Company in 1953. For decades, Campbell’s company had made and marketed only one product, but in the 1960s it began to diversify. It introduced a new product in 1961: chocolate-flavored Malt-O-Meal. Chocolate Malt-O-Meal was the company’s first successful new product since 1919, but it was not the last.

In 1965, the Malt-O-Meal Company began to manufacture ready-to-eat cereals like Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice. To make these new products, the company purchased the Northfield Creamery building. This became Malt-O-Meal’s second Northfield manufacturing plant.

During this period, the Malt-O-Meal Company also attempted to manufacture food outside of the breakfast market. From 1967 through 1981, the Malt-O-Meal Company produced Soy Town and Soy Ahoy roasted soybean snacks as well as Pophitt popcorn bunnies and balls. These snack products were eventually discontinued.

The Malt-O-Meal Company began to expand its ready-to-eat cereal lines in the 1970s. They introduced several flavors and packed the cereal in stay-fresh plastic bags. Some notable flavors include Toasty O’s (1975), Sugar Puffs (1980), and Tootie Fruities (1989). Other flavors came in the 1990s, when the company made microwave Malt-O-Meal. During this period, the company also started making store-brand cereal.

After celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary in 1994, the Malt-O-Meal Company continued to expand product lines and adapt to new trends in food manufacturing. It opened manufacturing plants in Tremonton, Utah, and Asheboro, North Carolina, in the 2000s. In later years the company also added organic and natural cereal lines. Then, in 2012, the company changed its name to MOM Brands.

Despite these efforts, MOM Brands was challenged by changes in the breakfast food market. In 2015, its leaders agreed to sell the company to Post Holdings, Inc. Post Holdings combined its Post Foods business with MOM Brands to become Post Consumer Brands. Since then, Post Consumer Brands has continued to produce Malt-O-Meal products in Northfield. While the Malt-O-Meal Company that John Campbell started no longer exists, his malt-flavored hot cereal and dozens of others are still made in Northfield.

For more information on this topic, check out the original entry on MNopedia.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/09/2019 - 11:15 am.

    It is a town of cows, colleges and contentment, after all.

  2. Submitted by Andy Briebart on 09/09/2019 - 12:53 pm.

    I knew someone who worked there for years. He loved it and the family who ran it.

    When the salmonella problem in 2008 happened, it hurt the family hard. They family knew it needed diversification of manufacturing plants and undertook a lot of debt and risk to expand to other cities.

    At some point, they were offered enough money to sell the company. They fought hard for the Northfield community.

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