April 4/Business Wire/MINNEAPOLIS -- General Mills announced today the official launch of its new Worldwide Innovation Network (WIN), designed to expand and accelerate the innovation advances already under way inside the company. Through General Mills WIN, the company is seeking external partners with new products and technologies that will be complementary to its brands and businesses.

"We have formalized our open innovation initiative to ensure potential partners recognize that we are not only open to new products and technologies, we are actively seeking them," said Peter Erickson, General Mills senior vice president of innovation, technology and quality. "A focus on open innovation has been a critical competitive advantage for General Mills. We believe the next big advance, which may reshape the food industry, has already been invented by someone outside the company, and our goal is to be the first to find it."

Innovation has long been cited by company leaders as critical to the success of General Mills and is one of the company's key growth drivers. Through General Mills WIN, the company is seeking patented or patent-pending products and technologies from inventors and small companies. Prospective partners can contact General Mills by calling (763) 764-4946 (GWIN). Submissions are evaluated according to several criteria, with focus on the fit for a particular brand or product line; uniqueness; and expansion or growth potential. Business categories of interest include:

* Baking products
* Cereal
* Frozen vegetables, pastries, pizza and snacks
* Refrigerated and frozen dough
* Shelf-stable meals, meal kits, soups and side dishes
* Snack bars, fruit snacks, salty snacks
* Organic soups, cereals, snack bars
* Yogurt

Soy beverages
"At General Mills, we're constantly on a quest to deliver on the health, taste, convenience and value of our products," said Jeff Bellairs, General Mills director of external innovation."Partners who help us achieve our innovation goals will benefit from General Mills' resources, scale and credibility in the marketplace to advance their own business. We believe that innovation, whether it is in our products, packaging or processes, should deliver mutual benefit to the company, our partners and the consumer."

External resources can radically improve how General Mills makes, markets and sells its products. To jump-start its external innovation efforts, the company recently partnered with NineSigma's solution provider network to use the expertise of scientists and engineers around the world to help solve some of the most challenging technical issues. General Mills also recently joined YourEncore, a network of retirees with vast scientific and engineering expertise, to accelerate new product development.

General Mills is expanding on a history of innovation success through collaboration with external partners. For example, General Mills licensed the Yoplait brand name in 1978 from Sodima, a French dairy cooperative. Today, Yoplait is a $1 billion dollar business and the yogurt category leader. Joint ventures also have built strong businesses for General Mills and its partners. In 1990, General Mills and Nestlé created a joint venture called Cereal Partners Worldwide, which is now the global No. 2 player in cereal. Through WIN, General Mills will continue to seek external partners who can deliver new products and technologies to grow its business.

From the April 9, 2007, Prepared Foods e-Flash