Slideshow: General Mills alters approach to product development

by Monica Watrous
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MINNEAPOLIS — General Mills, Inc. has set out to become “the best big small food company in the industry,” said Peter Erickson, executive vice-president of innovation, technology and quality. The Minneapolis-based company has adopted a more entrepreneurial approach to innovation to respond more quickly to consumer trends and in many cases has increased its speed to market from about 24 months to less than 12 months.

One of the ways in which General Mills has achieved this is through what it calls “lemonade stands.” Product development teams set up a table at a cooking school, farmers market, fitness center or grocery store to test new product concepts and interact with consumers earlier in the development process.

Ken Powell, General Mills
Ken Powell, chairman and c.e.o. of General Mills

The new approach to innovation comes in response to “a period of very rapid change in the food industry,” said Ken Powell, chairman and chief executive officer of General Mills.

Consumer demand for simple ingredient lists, products free from artificial colors and flavors, less sugar and sodium, and more convenience has translated into a set of growth opportunities for General Mills, he said.

“We’ve challenged ourselves to go out and really understand our consumers, get into their homes, shop alongside them and listen to what they want,” Mr. Powell said. “These interactions allow us to build greater intuition, which helps us move much faster. Our new product lineup demonstrates our ability to listen and respond.”

New products launching this year from General Mills include yogurt, soup, cereal and snacks from such brands as Yoplait, Annie’s, Progresso, Nature Valley, Old El Paso and more.

Click for a slideshow of General Mills’ summer 2016 new product line-up.

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