W. Elliot Brownlee; Biochemist Created Cheez-Its Flavor


W. Elliot Brownlee, who produced K and C rations during World War II and added special ingredients to snack foods including the cheese in Cheez-Its, has died. He was 90.

Brownlee, who worked for Sunshine Biscuit Co. for more than 40 years, died April 26 in Santa Barbara of Parkinson’s disease.

As a trained biochemist, Brownlee became fascinated with developing specialized flours and other raw materials for the company’s various products including snack foods.


He developed the cheese flavor for Cheez-Its in 1936 when he was a vice president at United Mills, a Sunshine subsidiary.

During the war, Brownlee supervised Sunshine’s production of field rations for soldiers.

Brownlee worked for Sunshine from 1929 to 1969 and later remained an advisor for Fuji Baking Co., a Japanese maker of crackers and biscuits.

Active during his retirement years, Brownlee won an award for ice dancing in New York’s Senior Olympics in the late 1970s, became fluent in Japanese, and regularly engaged in his hobbies of fly fishing, gardening and ice skating.

He is survived by a son, Elliot Brownlee Jr., a sister, Harriet Brownlee Johnson, and two grandchildren.