|Kendall J. Powell, chairman and c.e.o. of General Mills|
“Consumer expectations for food companies have never been higher,” Kendall J. Powell, chairman and chief executive officer of General Mills, wrote in his letter to stakeholders. “Consumers are increasingly looking for food that reflects their values, from a company they trust. We have responded by expanding our offerings, introducing new benefits and increasing transparency. We are growing our natural and organic business, removing artificial colors and flavors from many of our products and introducing new tools that provide consumers easy access to information about the food we make. We are also bringing innovation to our portfolio by building partnerships with emerging food brands. Through our venture capital arm 301 Inc, we are investing in start-up food businesses and leveraging our scale to diversify our portfolio.”
In 2005, General Mills implemented its U.S. Health Metric. The Health Metric measures improvements to existing U.S. products and encourages development of new U.S. products with strong nutrition profiles. Since the introduction of the U.S. Health Metric, General Mills said it has increased beneficial nutrients and reduced nutrients to limit, including increasing whole grain consumption by introducing more than 250 products that provide at least 8 grams of whole grain per serving, and reducing sodium by 5% to 25% in more than 420 products. Additionally, the company has introduced more than 250 products that provide a significant source of dietary fiber per serving and increased dietary fiber in another 25 products by at least 10%.
Comparing the company’s targets with its progress, General Mills in the report said 79% of U.S. retail sales volume has been nutritionally improved since 2005, including more than 1,100 products.
Examples of new and existing products with healthier profiles that were introduced or reformulated in 2016 include new Nature Valley Soft Baked Granola Bites with 9 grams of whole grain and 12% daily value of protein per serving and Fiber One Oats and Chocolate Snack Bar, which was reformulated to reduce sugar by 30% (to 7 grams per serving from 10 grams).
General Mills’ mission to increase whole grain in its products continues to grow, with 98% of the company’s cereals listing whole grains as the first ingredient and 150 products with at least 16 grams of whole grain per serving.
“Today our portfolio of whole grain products has expanded to include whole wheat flour, granola bars made with whole grain, and meal kits with whole grain pasta and rice,” the company noted in the report. “Keeping with tradition, all of our Big G, Nature Valley and Annie’s cereals deliver double-digit grams of whole grain per serving.”
General Mills also over the past year took steps to expand wellness offerings to meet diverse consumer needs, including expanding its leadership in gluten-free products. The company said it has become the second-largest producer of gluten-free products in the United States with more than 1,000 gluten-free products. By comparison, the company offered 850 gluten-free products in 2014 and 980 in 2015.
“Many consumers are trying to cut back on the amount of gluten in their diets,” General Mills said. “For consumers with a sensitivity to gluten — including nearly 3 million Americans with celiac disease who must avoid gluten — finding affordable, gluten-free foods that taste good can be a challenge. General Mills offers gluten-free products across our portfolio, including baking, brownie, cake and cookie mixes, frostings, refrigerated baked goods, cereal, flour, granola, oatmeal, pasta, soups, snacks, vegetables and yogurt.”
General Mills also said it is the fourth-largest U.S. natural and organic food producer, with more than 500 organic retail products in the United States and Canada.
“Consumer interest in natural and organic foods has increased significantly and is expected to drive double-digit growth over the next five years,” the company noted in the report. “Since 2000, we have been steadily expanding our natural and organic business, including through brand acquisitions, to meet this demand. General Mills is now the fourth-largest U.S. natural and organic food producer. We offer a mix of certified organic cereals, yogurt, vegetables, fruit products, snacks, meals and baking products.
“We have committed to growing our natural and organic food business to $1 billion in net sales by 2019, and reached $750 million in net sales from this category in fiscal 2016. We are also taking steps across our supply chain to ensure a long-term supply of organic ingredients.”For the full report, click here.