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Cream of Wheat has come a long way from start in North Dakota

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GRAND FORKS (AP) - Cream of Wheat, the breakfast cereal that got its start in North Dakota, is being sold.

Kraft Foods Inc, announced Tuesday that the brand is part of a $200 million sale to a subsidiary of New Jersey-based B&G Foods Inc. Cream of Wheat had net revenue of $60 million last year, the company said.

Miller Tom Amidon introduced Cream of Wheat at Grand Forks' Diamond Milling Co. in 1893.

At the time, Amidon pitched his new cereal to Diamond Mill owners George Bull and Emory Mapes, the mill was struggling economically. The three men decided to add a few cases of the cereal in handmade packaging to a carload of flour that was sent to New York.

It was a hit.

David Bull, George Bull's grandson and a former chief executive officer of the Cream of Wheat Co., said part of the original business plan was to buy as much advertising as the company could afford.

"That built the company; that put it on the national map," he said.

Bull said part of the company's strategy was to advertise with full-page, color ads in such magazines as the Ladies' Home Journal and Saturday Evening Post.

Artists such as James Montgomery Flagg, known as the man behind the Uncle Sam recruiting posters, and N.C. Wyeth created ads for Cream of Wheat.

Maples, for whom a Nelson County town was named, was known for sending sales representatives to restaurants to order Cream of Wheat. They would walk out if the restaurant owners said they never heard of it.

Once the advertising began, Bull said, the company quickly outgrew its facility in Grand Forks. "When Cream of Wheat started to go national, that little place up in Grand Forks simply couldn't handle it," he said.

The company moved to the Minneapolis area in 1897, and it was sold to Nabisco, now part of Kraft, at the end of 1961. The Cream of Wheat plant remained open in Minneapolis until 2002, when production of the cereal was relocated.

Bruce Gjovig, director of the University of North Dakota's Center for Innovation, said a packaging process developed at UND increased the shelf life of Cream of Wheat and allowed the company to distribute its product around the nation.

Kraft, the world's second-largest food manufacturer, said the sale to Parsippany, N.J.-based B&G, which was announced Tuesday, also includes the Cream of Rice label and manufacturing equipment.

The sale requires regulatory approval.

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