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Raisin Bran was Once a Monopoly (Bran Muffins)


Raisin bran is one of my favorite cereals. I love the sugar on the bran with the chewiness of the raisins. Specifically, I love Kellogg’s Raisin Bran cereal.


Turns out that the history of Raisin Bran isn’t so sweet, and Kellogg’s was not always producing Raisin Bran…


In 1925, the brand “Skinner” began selling a breakfast cereal with bran flakes and raisins. They called it Raisin-BRAN. They were the only company to sell a cereal called Raisin Bran, and they even trademarked the name.


As a reminder, a trademark is “a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.” (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office). For more on patents, copyrights, and trademarks, see this post on cake mixes


Back to Raisin Bran. Skinner had trademarked Raisin-BRAN, and they were the only ones selling a bran flake cereal with raisins called Raisin Bran. They had a monopoly!


…until 1942. In that year, both Kellogg Company and General Foods Corporation began selling bran flake cereals with raisins in them. They called it Raisin Bran.


Uh oh. But Skinner had a trademark on Raisin-BRAN! Skinner contacted General Foods and Kellogg, reminded them of the trademark, and asked them to change their name.


That didn’t work. Skinner, Kellogg, and General Foods eventually went to court. Skinner claimed that because of their trademark General Foods and Kellogg could not cereal under the name of Raisin Bran.


From my reading of the case (with no legal experience), Skinner ended up losing the case for two reasons:


(1) raisin bran is a description of the product, just as raisin pie would describe a pie with raisins.


AND


(2) General Foods and Kellogg’s had their name on the box of Raisin Bran, so it would not be confused with Skinner’s Raisin Bran.


To read the case click here.


So, Skinner’s lost their monopoly. And now there are lots of Raisin Bran cereals.


In economics terms, we would call the market monopolistic competition. Just like peanut butter, there are a bunch of the same product but sold by different brands and all slightly distinctive.


You can still buy Skinner’s Raisin Bran. On their box it even says “America’s First Raisin Bran.”


6 Week Bran Muffins


I've been making these bran muffins my whole life. I believe it was my grandmother's recipe. Now, I know what you're thinking, bran muffins? These are so good! I'd take one over a blueberry muffin any day!


Stir Together:

4 cups Raisin Bran

1 cup (200 g) sugar

2 1/2 cups (~ 313 g) flour (all-purpose OR half all-purpose and half whole wheat)

2 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt (important)

¼ cup unprocessed coarse bran

¼ cup wheat germ

½ cup golden raisins


Add to above:

2 eggs

½ qt. (2 cups) buttermilk

½ cup veg. oil

½ cup apple sauce (or another ½ cup veg. oil if you don’t have applesauce)


Store batter in the refrigerator until ready to bake. Do not freeze raw batter. The batter will keep 6 weeks in the refrigerator.


When ready, bake the muffins in greased muffin tins filled 2/3 full at 400 degrees about 12-15 minutes.


You can also freeze cooked muffins and reheat to serve.