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Cereal Contest Stirs Interest in Manufacturing

Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation has discovered a way to interest students in manufacturing: through their stomachs.

With support from the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, the Chester, Illinois–based private-label food manufacturer recently chose the winner of its second annual “Create A Crunch” cereal-design contest for local high schoolers.

  • “It’s critically important for our nation’s future that we attract the next generation of creators and makers, dreamers and doers who want to make our world a better place to live,” said IMA President and CEO Mark Denzler. “‘Create A Crunch’ is a fun and innovative way to encourage kids to explore all facets of manufacturing.”

A winner of an idea: The contest, which each year poses an essay-writing question on a manufacturing-related topic, came about when Gilster-Mary Lee was brainstorming ways to participate in National Manufacturing Month, which is October.

  • “We were looking for a way to participate that would be meaningful and get kids—students—excited” about manufacturing, said President and CEO Tom Welge, a direct descendant of the company’s founding Gilster family, which started the firm in the late 19th century as the Gilster Milling Company.
  • “We’d done a lot of celebrity cereals [such as a recent one featuring college basketball star Caitlin Clark], and they’re really popular. So I thought, why not involve students in the creation of a product and turn it into a way to educate them about manufacturing, maybe focusing on a particular topic in the industry we believe is important?”

An educational opportunity: “Create A Crunch” was born and is already off to a roaring start. In 2022, the contest garnered more than 300 entries from students throughout Illinois and Missouri. In 2023, it received more than 400.

  • In addition to getting to choose the type of cereal, name and box design for their limited-run branded breakfast food, each year’s winner gets 2,500 boxes for their school, which “they can sell in a fundraiser, donate, whatever they want,” Welge said.

Read the full story here.

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