When it comes to food safety, it’s all about numbers and minimizing risk. It starts with zero — as in the “zero tolerance” that everyone strives for when it comes to sanitation — and ends with 100 — the penultimate percentage that every company seeks in the safe production of the food they sell.
Minneapolis-based General Mills produces and markets more than 100 consumer brands in more than 100 countries on six continents. However, securing that safety is a complex and often convoluted global initiative. It involves a dialogue with dozens of company-owned production operations and communication with hundreds of facilities when contract manufacturers of snacks and other finished goods are involved. And those numbers even reach four-digit territory when myriad suppliers — both large and small — fall into the fold and under the guidance of the company’s Sanitation Center of Excellence, according to Karl Thorson, food safety and sanitation manager.
“You can’t look at our company in terms of food safety and the small scope of our own plants we operate,” he pointed out. “Yes, we roll out our policies and standards and training for our own people. But that’s a very small piece of the puzzle in the overall scheme of things. We have to figure out how to work together with outside organizations. We all use a lot of the same suppliers, so that’s why we dedicate a lot of our time and resources externally.”With $18.6 billion in annual sales in 2015, General Mills spans the globe with $10.5 billion in US retail sales, of which 20% are snacks sold under the Bugles, Chex, Fiber One, LARABAR and Nature Valley brands, among others. International sales top $5.1 billion with 41% from Europe followed by Canada (22%), Asia/Pacific (20%) and Latin America (17%). Meanwhile, convenience food and foodservice garnered $2.0 billion in sales while joint ventures brought in $1.1 billion, according to the company.