At the annual Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in Boca Raton, Florida, General Mills chairman and CEO Ken Powell outlined a clear focus on new growth strategies for the company, which address shifting consumer preferences in food.
“Our company has been growing for more than a century, constantly innovating and investing to meet changing consumer needs. The changing food preferences we see today create new growth opportunities for General Mills. We are confident that putting the consumer first, and innovating and investing to market foods that meet their needs will lead to new growth for General Mills and superior returns for our shareholders,” Powell said.
Powell was joined by Don Mulligan, chief financial officer; Jeff Harmening, executive vice president and chief operating officer, U.S. Retail; and Chris O’Leary, executive vice president and chief operating officer, International, to outline to investors how General Mills is staying current with consumers to unlock new growth opportunities.
Around the world, a growing number of consumers are focused on wellness and have new interests in natural and organic foods, products make with simple ingredients, food free from gluten, foods that deliver more fiber, more protein and more whole grain, and foods free from artificial ingredients. And consumers are also snacking more than ever.
In the U.S., we’re addressing these growing interests through product innovation and renovation.
Next month, Yoplait Original will begin to roll out a 25 percent sugar reduction. Marketing and renovation efforts to date, which have included snack-focused advertising and removal of high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors and flavors, have retail sales growing double-digits.
This summer, Cheerios – the biggest franchise in the cereal category – will go gluten free on five Cheerios varieties.
This is the first step in a broad investment plan designed to renovate our Big G portfolio for today’s wellness-oriented consumers. Renovation efforts have already paid off for the Chex franchise where sales have been growing double digits since going gluten free five years ago.
This summer we’ll also build upon our $1.35 billion grain snacks business by highlighting gluten-free news on a variety of Nature Valley bars.
And we’ll continue to meet growing consumer interest in natural and organic products, which is expected to drive double-digit industry sales growth over the next five years.
Harmening told investors there is great upside for our $600 million natural and organic business, leveraging the combined capabilities of Annie’s and our heritage natural and organic brands to grow distribution, expand into new categories and deliver new growth.
Consumer interests in wellness and snacking extend to global markets as well.
Gluten-free products are becoming mainstream in Europe and we’re delivering innovation to drive cereal growth worldwide with products like Gluten Free Corn Flakes, which launched in 17 markets.
Many international consumers also are looking for added protein. So we’ve launched new Fitness protein granola with 30 percent less fat than traditional granolas. And we’ve introduced Nature Valley protein granolas in the UK. We’re also introducing reduced sugar varieties of Fitness cereal and Cheerios in select European markets.
And yogurt consumption is expanding in new markets. Yoplait, which has grown to become a nearly $2 billion dollar business over the past 50 years is currently available in more than 50 global markets. And, it will soon be entering the $8 billion dollar yogurt category in China where sales are growing at a double-digit pace according to Euromonitor.