Winners in 2011 were General Mills, Inc. and a company established in 2007, Batter Blaster. Making the sweep even more impressive, grain-based foods companies compete for the prize not only with other makers of food and beverages but all companies making consumer packaged goods.
The G.M.A. said applications for the award this year hit an all-time high. General Mills was honored for a biomass system that uses oat hulls to generate nearly all the energy needed to heat an oat mill and produce the oat flour used in making Cheerios. Batter Blaster sure was a sentimental favorite, both for the cleverness of its invention — a pancake batter served in a whipped cream-style, pressurized can — and for the small size of the business.
For example, the “small” company honored by G.M.A. in 2010 was Diamond Foods, Inc., a publicly traded company that is hardly a start-up. G.M.A. may be overstating the case when it claims Batter Blaster “has overhauled the healthy morning breakfast routine for families across the board.” Still, the innovation in as mature a market as pancake and waffle mixes is a reminder of the creative ferment that keys the central position of grain-based foods in the American diet and always keeps the industry’s largest companies, including General Mills, on their toes.