General Mills ahead on health

by Eric Schroeder
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MINNEAPOLIS — For nearly a decade, General Mills, Inc. has focused on improving the nutritional makeup of its U.S. Retail platforms through such efforts as increasing protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and reducing calories, sodium, sugar and fat. As a result, the company can boast that it has improved the health profile of 73% of its U.S. Retail sales volume since 2005.

Reductions in sodium and calories, and increases in whole grains, were among the main health improvements the company said it put in place to improve more than 20% of its U.S. Retail sales volume in fiscal 2013 alone.

At the conclusion of fiscal 2012, General Mills said 68% of its U.S. retail sales volume came from nutritionally improved products. This percentage compared with 64% of such products in fiscal 2011, 60% in fiscal 2010, and compared with only 16% of the company’s products when tracking began in 2005. In total, the company has nutritionally improved more than 750 of its products since 2005.

“Health is a core growth strategy for the company,” said Maha Tahiri, chief health and wellness officer for General Mills. Ms. Tahiri oversees the Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition. “Since General Mills began tracking health improvements in fiscal 2005, we have made considerable progress. Today, we can point to more than 750 products, both new and reformulated, that have been influenced by our Health Metric criteria, spanning our entire portfolio and accounting for nearly three quarters of our fiscal 2013 U.S. Retail sales volume.”

Much of General Mills’ efforts on nutrition have come in whole grains, but during fiscal 2013 the company paid special attention to reducing sodium. The company has set a goal of reducing sodium, on average, by 20% in its top 10 categories by 2015. Fiscal 2013 improvements include sodium reductions of at least 10% in several shelf stable Green Giant vegetable offerings, as well as a number of Suddenly Salads and Helper dinners.

The company also made meaningful calorie reductions during fiscal 2013, including reducing calories in Yoplait Light yogurt to 90 calories and the introduction of a new lower calorie dairy option — Yoplait Greek 100. Yoplait Greek 100 contains 100 calories and features a Weight Watchers PointsPlus value of two points per serving.

“General Mills has long had a focused health and wellness strategy and for many years we have been working to help our consumers lead healthier lifestyles,” Ms. Tahiri said. “We know consumers are focused on health, yet do not want to compromise the great taste they’ve come to expect from General Mills. So, as we improve the health profile of the foods people love and eat every day, we’ve found the most successful approach is a series of small, incremental changes. We are committed to continuing to make health improvements over time as we remain focused on delivering remarkable products.”
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