C.W. Post was trying to make a drink, something to rival coffee at the breakfast table. The cereal magnate and innovator had scored a big hit in 1895 with his Postum, a drink mix made from roasted grains. It was the first product of what would become the Post Cereal Co. Two years later, like all good businessmen, he was looking for a hit sequel. Post touted the natural benefits of his grain beverage, citing it as a healthy alternative to caffeine and coffee.
Instead of Postum II, he ended up with crunchy nuggets made of wheat and barley. His recipe also included maltose, what he called “grape sugar,” and tasted rather nutty. So he called his new breakfast cereal “Grape-Nuts.”
Yep, that’s how Grape-Nuts got their name. Launched in 1897, it was one of the earliest breakfast cereals sold.
Jump forward six decades. Post Cereal has become a corporate giant, sponsors of several television programs. This was the 1950s, the early days of TV, when shows survived or died based on what kind of corporate sponsors they could lure. Post was the prime backer of The Danny Thomas Show, a.k.a. Make Room for Daddy. The sitcom was a huge hit, but there was one problem — it was too “big city.”
Danny Thomas was raised in Toledo, began his career in Detroit and Chicago, and played a character named Danny Williams, a nightclub entertainer in New York City. He was a city fella through and through. But Post wanted to promote its wholesome cereals to a more rural audience.
To put it in Post’s own words: “[The Danny Thomas Show] depicted a discordant, urban family life that conflicted with Post’s wholesome family image.” It says that right on the current homepage for Grape-Nuts cereal. Post requested an episode set in the countryside, where the actors could more fittingly pitch Grape-Nuts.
The result was “Danny Meets Andy Griffith,” an episode where Danny Williams and his family take a road trip through quaint Mayberry, North Carolina, only to end up in jail thanks to a certain Sheriff Andy. The fish-out-of-water comedy proved to be an immediate hit.
Let’s go back to Post for the rest of the story:
“America met and immediately fell in love with Sheriff Andy Taylor. A spin-off premiered in 1960, and The Andy Griffith Show quickly became a staple in American culture. What’s more, commercial breaks featured Andy Griffith and co-star Don Knotts heralding the goodness of Grape-Nuts.”
Grape-Nuts was one of the products pitched by Don Knotts and Andy Griffith, in character as sheriff and deputy, at the end of episodes. One of the show’s other sponsors? Sanka instant coffee. Coffee — C.W. Post’s original archnemesis, the reason he created Grape-Nuts. Well, C.W. would be happy to know Sanka was at least decaf?