General Mills Bfast

July 9/Minneapolis/Pioneer Press - General Mills is introducing a breakfast shake, spicing up its Hamburger Helper line and unveiling about 200 other new products it will roll out this summer and in the fall.

At an investors' day gathering in New York, officials from the foodmaker stressed that the slate of new products is key to keeping its financial performance strong.

"Product innovation is the fuel that creates category growth," CEO Ken Powell told analysts.

Most of General Mills' new products are extensions of existing lines, including several with added protein, including Fiber One Protein Peanut Butter bars and Go-Gurt Protein yogurt.

However, the BFAST breakfast shake is completely new and represents an interesting pathway for a breakfast cereal maker. The shakes require no refrigeration, come in three flavors (chocolate, vanilla and berry) and are touted as having "the nutrition of a bowl of cereal and milk."

The Hamburger Helper line is getting a significant overhaul, aimed at fending off competitors in the dinner-mix aisle that have hurt sales of the venerable General Mills line.

The new Helper mixes downplay the hamburger -- since chicken is now at least as popular -- and spice up the existing flavors. The chicken offerings now include Crispy Cheddar Bacon Chicken and Crispy Ranch Chicken.

Further, General Mills is rolling out a new line called "Ultimate" Helper dinner mixes, which will include a sauce pouch, "a first for Helper," the company said.

The four flavors include Three Cheese Marinara and Cheddar Broccoli.

General Mills announced its year-end results last month. The company has made some major acquisitions in the past couple of years, including the international Yoplait business in Europe and the Yoki food business in South America.

Those have boosted its sales but pressured its profit margins. So for fiscal 2014, the company said, its goal will be to consolidate and derive growth from those operations.

"The focus this year is on execution," CFO Don Mulligan told analysts, later adding, "We don't have M and A (merger and acquisition) on our plans for 2014."