By Kerry McNally, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One in ten bowls of breakfasts eaten every day here in the United States is made in Northfield, Minn.

The year was 1919 when Northfield resident John Campbell took $900 of poker winnings and bought a mill to make a new kind of Farina.

“(The name) Malt-O-Meal comes from the first product that he made,” said Consumer Marketing Manager Linda Fischer. “It was a farina-based cereal that he flavored with malt.”

Originally housed in the Ames Mill, which was built on the banks of the Canon River, Malt-O-Meal now employees over 2,000 Minnesotans.

Today, this privately-held breakfast behemoth makes 24 varieties of ready to eat cereals conspicuously packaged without a box.

“The box is pointless packaging. If you open up a box of cereal, it has a bag inside. So why create all those boxes in the first place,” explained Fischer.

And that’s precisely why Malt-O-Meal launched their green initiative “Bag the Box” campaign.

“Three-hundred-seventy-five million tons of paper board are used every year to make cereal boxes. And then they just get thrown away or recycled,” Fischer said.

Malt-O-Meal doesn’t spend much money on traditional advertising, so this kind of green campaign is their way of helping the planet while calling out their competitors.

Selling more 900 million pounds of cereal a year in bags adds up to one billion fewer boxes a year to create, ship and ultimately dispose of. And going bag-free has another advantage: the view.

Fischer pointed out the little window in the bag, “You can see all the almonds and granola and everything that is in that product and decide for yourself if you want to buy that.”

To compliment their Bag the Box campaign, Malt-O-Meal is running a web contest for students to show how their classroom is the “greenest.” The winner will receive $2,500 for their school.

Comments (29)
  1. whatever says:

    Boxes line up nicely on shelves.

    1. Zachary DeBoer says:

      So do the bins that the bags are placed in on the shelves. If anything, the bins line up better!

  2. Esther says:

    I JUST bought boxes of Malt-O-Meal cereal this week. When were they going to “Bag the Box” exactly? One would think they would first stop production of boxes before chiding competitor’s for producing them as well.

    1. Kelly says:

      Malt-O-Meal has ALWAYS had cereal in bags. They are cheaper than the ones in the boxes. But there are people out there that refuse to buy the bag cereal- so they are trying to accomodate everyone. I grew up in Northfield…the town always smells so delicious.

    2. To Esther says:

      The HOT cereal comes in a box. The “ready to eat” cereal comes in a bag.

      1. M B says:

        Actually, no. I saw some Malt-O-Meal ready to eat cereals in boxes in a convenience store in S. MN last fall. It was the first time I had ever seen them in boxes before.

  3. whatever says:

    I meant in my house though 🙂 I agree in the store the bins are nice.

    1. Zachary DeBoer says:

      😉 That is why we always put them into reusable cereal containers at home. I understand what you mean though 😉

    2. Zachary DeBoer says:

      That is why we always put them into reusable cereal containers at home. I understand what you mean though 😉

  4. Nicole says:

    While they do sell some in boxes, most of their cereals are in bags (and have been for quite some time). The only time I usually see the boxes is during a major sale and the quantity in the boxes is much less than what is in the smallest bag sold. My family only buys the Malt-O-Meal bags of cereal and they store just fine in our cupboards at home.

  5. Zachary DeBoer says:

    I always thought it was strange that cereal didn’t only come in a bag. I grew up in Northfield, MN so I grew up with cereal always coming in a bag and then we put it into containers at home. Interestingly these containers were provided by Malt-O-Meal at the yearly ice cream socials that they used to host every year in the town center right across the river from the original Ames Mill. They would give out tons and tons of free cereal and ice cream and it was always a fun event that I always looked forward to as a child.

    Malt-O-Meal has always made positive contributions in Northfield and they effected my childhood in many ways. I am happy to see that they are extending their reach to influence the rest of the cereal industry and make the kind of positive contributions that I know them for to the rest of the world!

    Thank you Malt-O-Meal!
    -Zachary DeBoer

    1. Zachary DeBoer says:

      I do wish they would start making the Apple Cinnamon Hot Malt-O-Meal again though! That was my favorite 😉

  6. Marya khan says:

    love the concept to reduce the amount of packaging. Our 4 kids love all the Malt-O-Meal products.
    Really apprecieate you big step toward Green life. Thankyou so much.

  7. Joy says:

    Malt-o-Meal was “green” before “green” was trendy. My neighbor works for Malt-o-Meal and the family has donated cereal to our food shelf. It’s great to see good publicity for a local, green company!

  8. Frankie says:

    Those cardboard boxes can be recycled and are a renewable resource and they do provide some crush protection for the cereal contents. You can’t say the same thing about those indestructible, petroleum-based, plastic bags.

    1. Rachel White says:

      Yes they are but all cereal in boxes also come in bags so really why have the boxes at all? The other company’s are producing twice as much waste as Malt-O-Meal.

  9. Vicki says:

    Someone please fix all the typos in this story

    1. Bill says:

      Amen to that! Come on–“And going bag-free…”??? I knew they were going BOX-free–but bag-free too???

    2. Pronoun says:

      And grammar. Malt-O-Meal launched ITS green initiative, not THEIR.

  10. Beth says:

    THank you Vicki! I had a hard time getting through it! Horrible Editing!

  11. Rick0822 says:

    Menards had several boxes of Malt-O-Meal cereal when i was there yesterday, It was wrong because Menards shouldn’t have cereal, and it shouldn’t be in boxes!

  12. K. says:

    How is using a plastic bag (which is usually not recyclable) more green than using a box (which is recyclable)? I’m confused…….

    1. Tou says:

      It also takes energy to produce both box and plastic bag, and then additional energy to have cardboard picked up by a recycling company, and then more energy to recycle the cardboard.

    2. Nicole says:

      When do you buy cereal that is in a box but not a bag? Even when the cereal is sold in a box, it is in a bag inside the box.

  13. lebrok says:

    Malt-O-Meal was thinking out of the box long before it was popular

  14. Linda Fisher says:

    This is Linda Fisher from Malt-O-Meal. We’re glad WCCO viewers liked the feature enough to comment here. We do sell about 10% of our cold cereals in boxes for a couple of reasons: some retailers won’t carry bags and MOST families (over 70% of US households) won’t even consider a bag. We hope they’ll reconsider and try our cereal when they learn that cereal bags create 75% less packaging than a comparably sized cereal box that has a plastic bag inside. To see why “bags only” are better than “box plus bag”, please visit

    1. Kathy H. says:

      Great campaign, Linda! I wholeheartedly support what Malt-O-Meal is doing.

  15. fat loss says:

    I do not disagree with this article!