- General Mills announced Thursday that longtime company veteran Jeffrey Harmening would be the company's president and COO, effective July 1.
- For 22 years, Harmening has served General Mills. He spent the last two years as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the company's U.S. retail segment, which comprises about 60% of its annual revenue.
- General Mills has not yet named Harmening's successor.
Harmening's two-decade history with General Mills has a common thread through several management roles: cereal.
Harmening served as the chief executive of Cereal Partners Worldwide, a joint venture with Nestle, as president of General Mills' cereal operating unit, and in other U.S. marketing roles.
Cereal continues to be a challenging sector for General Mills, and also the company's largest segment. If Harmening can devise a game plan for turning around cereal and apply those principles to other struggling segments and brands, General Mills may have found a formula for growth as legacy brand packaged food sales see general declines.
Cereal sales fell 9% from 2011 to 2015 before ticking back up this year, Star Tribune reported, so the early stage of that turnaround could be in effect. The company recently announced the debut of its first new cereal brand in 15 years, Tiny Toast, which seemed to side-step other company efforts to position cereal as an option for snacking and meals beyond breakfast. General Mills has also reformulated some cereals without artificial colors and flavors, released gluten-free labels for Cheerios, and reformulated Lucky Charms to be gluten-free.
Harmening was also General Mills' public face for company-wide decisions like labeling GMO ingredients.
Harmening's new role also suggests he may be primed to assume the role of CEO when current CEO Kenneth Powell is ready to step down. General Mills appointed Powell president in 2006, one year before he took the top job. Steve Sanger was the previous president, and became CEO in 1995.
General Mills is set to release its latest quarterly earnings report next week.