BOCA RATON, FLA. — A cornerstone of General Mills’ innovation strategy involves expanding local platforms globally. Whether it is Oui yogurt in Canada or Nature Valley in Europe, the effort is part of the company’s strategy to compete more effectively.
“Because the market is so dynamic it’s more important than ever we keep focused and stay focused on what the consumer is looking for,” said Jeffrey L. Harmening, chief executive officer, Feb. 20 during a presentation at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in Boca Raton, Fla. “Things helping us compete more effectively will be strong execution. We have to match what we do with data with compelling marketing ideas — Match science with the art of marketing.”
An example cited by Mr. Harmening during the presentation was Oui yogurt. The company is going to launch a similar product in the United Kingdom in March under the Liberte brand. Another example is Pillsbury Choco Cookie bars in India and Fiber One bars in the United States.
“They have almost everything in common,” Mr. Harmening said. “In the U.S. it has fiber. In India they have calcium because that is what they are looking for. Other than that the products are basically the same.”
The company also is focused on accelerating its differential growth platforms, which include such businesses as Häagen Dazs, snack bars, Old El Paso, and natural and organic. The businesses represent approximately $4 billion in revenue, or 23% of company sales, and Mr. Harmening said management has a goal of expanding sales to $5 billion.
“We just innovated Hӓagen Dazs into stick bars and we are just getting started,” he said.
The company is focused on expanding Hӓagen Dazs distribution into Australia and Italy. In addition, Mr. Harmening said the brand has a lot of room to grow in China.
General Mills also will be expanding distribution of its Fiber One brand in Canada and taking Nature Valley products to Canada and Europe.
General Mills’ Old El Paso business is larger outside the U.S., Mr. Harmening said, and the company is focused on growing its share in America.
“This is a brand that really lends itself to e-commerce,” he said. “A consumer can decide to have taco night, place an order and have all of the ingredients they need in their cart.”
E-commerce currently makes up 2% of General Mills sales, and management sees them growing to 5% by 2020. In response to an analyst’s question about the future of e-commerce, Mr. Harmening said the company is in a strong position.
“We are in a great position, because we have leading brands,” he said. “If I had a No. 5 market share I would feel differently.”