BUFFALO, NY - Here's a little quiz for the breakfast table:
What is the most popular cereal brand in American grocery stores?
Hint: It's been General Mills' top name since 1951.
Another hint: If you're a parent, you've vacuumed it from the minivan and under the high-chair cushion by the cupful.
The answer, of course, is Cheerios.
The iconic cereal, known by its distinctive yellow box, is 70 years old
this year and still a force on the breakfast cereal market.
One out of every eight boxes of cereal to leave the shelf in America carries the Cheerios name.
So How do you make Cheerios? Well, balls of dough are heated and shot out of a "puffing gun" at hundreds of miles an hour, according to General Mills.
The company's waterfront plant in Downtown Buffalo has been firing them off since 1941, often cloaking the city with a distinctive toasty-with-a-sweet-finish aroma and inspiring T-shirts announcing "My city smells like Cheerios."
More than 10 shapes and sizes were considered before the makers settled on little Os.
Since then, the company's introduced several new flavors, starting with Honey Nut in 1979 and last year, chocolate.
In 2009, sales of Honey Nut Cheerios surpassed the original flavor for
the first time and remain in the top spot today.
Minneapolis-based General Mills began advertising Cheerios (first called Cheerioats) as a first food for toddlers in 1974. Since 1999, the company has focused on promoting the cereal as healthy; it's made from whole-grain oats, with 3 grams of fiber and 1 gram of sugar per serving. But in 2009, federal regulators took issue with the cereal box's claim that it was "clinically proven to help lower cholesterol." In a warning letter, the Food and Drug Administration said only FDA-approved drugs can make such a claim.
In honor of Cheerios' 70th you can have a free bowl of cereal at the Citybration festival on June 26 along the waterfront.