TIMELINE: 10 Years of Packaging Innovations at General Mills
1999• Promotes Ken Powell from senior vice president to CEO of Cereal Partners Worldwide (CPW), General Mills’ joint venture with Nestlé, to market cereal outside North America.
• Acquires Lloyd’s, a line of cooked, shredded barbecue meats packaged in sauce in plastic tubs, and Gardetto’s, a snack mix.
• Begins initiative to combine supply chains of packaged food, foodservice and milling operations.
• Rolls out Go-GURT!, Yoplait yogurt packaged in squeezeable tubes. This fits with CEO Steve Sanger’s goal of emphasizing products that can be consumed with one hand.
• Converts Bugles corn snacks from boxes to foil pouches.
• Test-markets cereal canister with flip top and no interior bag. Although this is not adopted, it is similar to the cereal canister that Target Stores will use for its Archer Farms brand, which will be named Food & Beverage Packaging’s Food Package of the Year for 2008.
2000• Acquires Small Planet Foods, which includes the organic lines Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen.
• On July 17, General Mills and Diageo announce that their boards of directors have unanimously approved a definitive agreement, under which General Mills will acquire Diageo’s worldwide Pillsbury operations.
• Rolls out Betty Crocker Bowl Appétit! rice- and pasta-based dishes in plastic bowls, which the consumer microwaves after adding water.
• Makes the first major packaging change to Gold Medal flour since 1930 by introducing a resealable, clear plastic bag of Gold Medal’s all-purpose flour.
• Introduces freezer-to-oven Pillsbury Biscuits in a re-sealable stand-up bag that allows consumers to bake just the amount they need and store the rest.
2001• Effective Oct. 31, General Mills completes the acquisition of Pillsbury in a transaction valued at $10.4 billion, one of the largest food-industry acquisitions to date. The acquisition of its Minnesota neighbor dramatically expands General Mills’ product portfolio, instantly making it the world’s biggest purveyor of refrigerated dough products. The acquisition doubles General Mills’ Canadian business and eventually pushes sales outside the U.S. to more than $1 billion.
• Introduces Big G Milk ‘n Cereal Bars.
• Launches Yoplait Whips!, the first aerated yogurt.
• Betty Crocker celebrates her 80th birthday.
2002• Rolls out Betty Crocker Complete Meals, which have “everything you need for a hearty meal, including the meat, all in one box.”
• Introduces resealable bags for Pillsbury ready-to-bake cookies.
2003• Sees the results of the Pillsbury acquisition in the first full fiscal year after the deal: net sales growth of 32% to $10.5 billion, and comparable sales growth (figured as if Pillsbury had been part of General Mills all along) of 6%.
• Opens the new Betty Crocker Kitchens. The 13,595-square-foot facility includes 22 microwaves, 18 refrigerators and 15 freezers.
• Introduces Berry Burst Cheerios, featuring real berries that have been freeze-dried. When milk is added to the cereal, the fruit re-hydrates.
• Sells plant in Toledo, Ohio, which manufactured Cheerios, Betty Crocker cake mixes and other products. The sale is part of the divestitures required by the Federal Trade Commission as part of the Pillsbury deal.
• Earns Food Packager of the Year honor from Food & Drug Packaging magazine (now Food & Beverage Packaging).
2004• Announces that all of its Big G cereals will be made with whole grain ingredients, making the company the first major food manufacturer to do so. The conversion of General Mills’ entire Big G cereal line to include whole grain was the biggest single health-driven product improvement in the company’s history.
• Changes refrigerated pie crusts from folded to rolled. This means redesigning the carton from a square to a long rectangle, with accompanying graphics changes.
• Adds easy-open lids to Progresso soups.
• Regionally rolls out Pillsbury freezer-to-microwave biscuits.
• Rolls out Pillsbury Perfect Portions biscuits. The refrigerated dough comes in pairs of biscuits wrapped in peel-apart plastic pouches, four pairs to a paperboard carton.
2005• Sells Lloyd’s precooked barbecue line to Hormel.
• Introduces Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Nut bars, the first snack bar with a sweet and salty taste.
• Rolls out Betty Crocker Warm Delights, a cake mix in plastic bowls which the consumer simply microwaves after adding water.
• Rolls out Yoplait Smoothies, a yogurt-based beverage.
• Rolls out Yoplait Smoothies, a yogurt-based beverage.
• Introduces Progresso soups in microwavable plastic bowls.
• Introduces different club store packaging for Nature Valley bars. The design makes use of the whole pallet, not just one box, to adapt to the club store environment.
2006• Reformulates Hamburger Helper to cut down on packaging, while keeping the same amount of product. Flavoring packets are consolidated and the pasta shapes are modified, allowing the product to be packed more densely in a package that is 20% smaller. This change saves almost 900,000 pounds of paper a year, and also reduces the carbon footprint by using transport space more efficiently.
• Rolls out Hamburger Helper Microwave Singles, a single-serve, microwavable variation with ground meat already added.
• Rolls out Green Giant Just for One! single-serve frozen vegetables, sold four microwavable trays to a paperboard sleeve.
• Cereal Partners Worldwide, General Mills’ joint venture with Nestlé, announces its plans to acquire the Uncle Toby’s ready-to-eat and hot cereal business in Australia.
2007• Acquires Saxby Bros., a British chilled-pastry manufacturer.
• Rolls out Betty Crocker Warm Delights Minis, a single-serve version of Warm Delights microwavable cake.
• Introduces Green Giant Vegetable Blends, value-added frozen vegetables with nutritional benefits (like “Healthy Weight”) prominently displayed in colored circles on the carton.
• Rolls out Curves cereals and snack bars. Co-branded with the chain of women’s health centers, the Curves line targets female consumers concerned about weight and nutrition.
• Nationally rolls out 100-calorie Chex Mix snack packs.
• Launches the General Mills Worldwide Innovation Network (G-WIN). Through this program, General Mills seeks external partners around the globe with commercialized products and technologies that are complementary to its brands and businesses.
• Introduces Progresso Light, the first nationally branded light soup in the category.
• Rolls out Wanchai Ferry dinner kits, bringing a popular General Mills brand in China to the U.S.
• Rolls out Yoplait Yo-Plus yogurt with probiotic cultures and natural prebiotic fiber.
• Ken Powell named chief executive officer of General Mills. Steve Sanger continues as chairman.
2008• CEO Ken Powell becomes chairman of the board.
• Acquires Humm Foods, maker of Lärabar and Lärabar Jocalat bars, which join the Small Planet product group.
• Rolls out Cheerios snack mix.
• Introduces Pillsbury Savorings, bite-sized frozen appetizers.
• Yoplait celebrates 10th anniversary of “Save Lids to Save Lives.”
• Reformulates Rice Chex to become gluten-free.
• Celebrates 80th anniversary on the New York Stock Exchange.
• Is again named Food Packager of the Year (second time in six years) by Food & Beverage Packaging magazine.
2009• Announces plans to stop using milk from cows treated with rBST, a controversial hormone that enhances milk production, for Yoplait. Consumer perception, not food safety, is seen as the primary driver.
• Launches Banana Nut Cheerios.