Tony the Tiger and the birthplace of the cornflake were this factory town’s biggest tourist draws for 80 years, but that ended Friday when Kellogg Co. conducted its final free tour.
Company Vice President Joseph Stewart said cereal spies and plans to modernize Kellogg’s flagship plant made the decision essential.
“We’ve been told of competitors going through the plant, reviewing what we have here,” Stewart told reporters at a farewell news conference in the courtyard of the sprawling brick complex where Kellogg makes 22 of its 33 cereals. “We don’t intend to help our competitors go into business against us.”
Kellogg’s would have reduced its Battle Creek operation rather than give the competition a glimpse of its soon-to-be-installed $500-million state-of-the-art cereal technology, Stewart said. Ending the tours will save the jobs of about 1,000 of the plant’s 2,800 workers, he said.
6.5 Million Took Tours
W. K. Kellogg began showing visitors around as soon as his factory was built, and it was the only one of the cereal maker’s 24 plants where tours were conducted. The company says more than 6.5 million people trekked to Cereal City to see how the world’s biggest cereal maker makes cornflakes, the world’s best-selling cereal.
A one-day record was set Monday when more than 7,000 people, mostly children on spring break, took the tour, spokesman Richard Lovell said. Between 9 a.m. and noon, about 2,000 people had followed corn from kernel to flake to box, Lovell said.
Members of Brownie Troop 684 from Utica, Mich., had to set out at 6 a.m. to catch a southbound train to Battle Creek, but the 7-, 8- and 9-year-old girls, each toting a box of Apple Jacks and other souvenirs, said the early start was well worthwhile.
“We got to eat the cereal and get stickers and ice cream,” 8-year-old Lori Smith said before sprinting over to the costumed characters to hug “Snap,” one of the three perky Rice Krispies mascots.
“It was noisy--boom, bam, beam,” said 8-year-old Sarah Kline. “They got these machines that make weird noises when they grind it all up.”