MINNEAPOLIS — Ken Powell, chairman and chief executive officer of General Mills, Inc., said he believes consumers will stay with the company’s big brands provided the company refreshes the brands and keeps them relevant.
Mr. Powell discussed the topic of what will “bring the millennial consumer back” during a July 14 investor day conference call.
For example, Mr. Powell said General Mills was worried about the relevance of the Yoplait brand until the company renovated virtually every part of that franchise, including its products for children and Yoplait original. In doing so, he said Yoplait has become the fastest-growing franchise in the yogurt category.
“We strongly believe that as long as we are relevant and as long as we keep the brands fresh, as long as we adapt them in ways that align with the current consumer values, we will be fine,” he said. “And so yes, we strongly believe in that and we see lots of evidence for that.”
Mr. Powell also touched on the topic of millennials loyalty to smaller brands. This loyalty has led companies like General Mills to pursue acquisitions like Annie’s to reach the important millennial demographic. For the smaller companies, acquisitions by larger companies can help as well, especially if the smaller company feels like it may have hit a wall, he said.
“Annie’s is a good case in point,” Mr. Powell said. “As they got bigger, all of a sudden they are a listed company, they’ve got all of that reporting, they are trying to expand manufacturing, they are trying to expand sales. It is very hard to do that, to reach that next level of growth.“They are thrilled with the capabilities that we have brought to them. We are leaving those guys completely alone in terms of where that brand can go and the values of that brand, and they are really controlling that. But they come to us and say ‘Can you help us do soup? Can you help us do that? Can you help us get into that channel?’ And the answer is ‘yes,’ we can help you do that, and we can do it quickly. So those kinds of acquisitions we think really make sense for a company like Annie’s and for General Mills. There is a lot of synergy.”