Follow that trend: General Mills innovates product lineup

Dive Brief:

  • General Mills has maintained its dedication to innovation in new product development and the retooling of current products to keep pace with changing consumer trends, from gluten-free and protein to convenience and clean labels.
  • New products include an expansion of the Nature Valley brand with ready-to-eat cereals, capitalizing on the convenience trend, and Nature Valley Nut Butter Biscuits, which addresses consumers' growing interest in alternative nut butters. The company is also adding a line of Greek yogurt oatmeal varieties to its Plenti Greek yogurt portfolio and introducing Annie's organic yogurts made with whole milk and real fruits.
  • Since beginning to label Cheerios as gluten-free earlier this year, General Mills saw Cheerios sales increase by 3%.

Dive Insight:

Though the cereal industry has been waning in recent years, General Mills chairman and CEO Ken Powell said during an earnings call last week that, "Our top priority in U.S. retail this year is to drive growth in cereal, and our net sales are up 1% year-to-date."

Gluten-free is one cereal effort that has worked for General Mills, though the company endured a backlash in October when the company recalled 1.8 million boxes of Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios due to wheat being introduced into production. General Mills has also seen some success with advertising Chex as gluten-free (which it already was as a rice-based cereal) and now also Lucky Charms, Powell told the Associated Press.

General Mills has promoted its Cheerios Protein variety in conjunction with the rising interest in protein-rich foods. The Center for Science in the Public Interest recently sued the company, claiming it's misleading consumers because Cheerios Protein has only a marginally higher level of protein than traditional Cheerios when compared by weight and Cheerios Protein's serving size is larger, which could inflate the protein count. General Mills stands firm on its label, saying that the company determined the larger serving size per FDA regulations, which takes density into account.

General Mills has also worked to retool products, from changes like making Nature Valley Crunch Bars easier to bite to pledging to remove artificial colors, flavors, and high-fructose corn syrup from its cereals by 2017, 80% of which will have met that claim by January, according to Powell. Marketing for these changes are expected to ramp up in the third quarter.

The company has focused on a number of other initiatives this year, including removing sodium from several product categories and setting a 2025 goal for 100% sourcing of cage-free eggs. In Food Dive's "Food fight" series earlier this year, General Mills won out over Kellogg.

Filed Under: Manufacturing Corporate
Top image credit: Flickr user maveric2003