Increasing consumer interest in wellness, as well as a desire for convenience and an increase in snacking are three key trends that are driving a raft of new product launches from General Mills this summer.
“We’re in a period of very rapid change in the food industry. And consumers are very clear about what they want – simple ingredient lists, free from artificial colours and flavours, free from gluten, less sugar, less sodium, more convenience,” said General Mills chairman and CEO Ken Powell. “This translates into very a clear set of growth opportunities for us.”
Some of the new products designed to capitalise on the health trend include Yoplait Greek 2% whips, made with 2% milkfat for a thicker, creamier texture; Yoplait Petits Filous, squeezable on the go gluten free yogurt pouches made with 100% naturally sourced ingredients and with no artificial colours, sweeteners or preservatives; Granola Bars from Nature Valley made with whole nuts, seeds, honey and sea salt; and Good Natured soups by Progresso, a new line of vegetable soups which are non GMO, vegan, and contain no preservatives from artificial sources.
As the boundaries between snacking and meals continue to blur, General Mills has developed another range of products to take advantage of this growing trend.
Some of these include Old El Paso Mini Taco Boat Party Pack; Totino’s Pizza Sticks, which only take one minute to heat up; Parampara Dinner Kits, enabling consumers to enjoy restaurant quality Indian inspired dishes at home; and Good Table Freezer to Plate, new meal kits which allow consumers to use frozen chicken to make rustle up meals quickly.
And snacks that used to be considered special treats are now being eaten more frequently, while some traditional snacks are becoming more nutritious as consumers look for healthier versions. The combination of these trends reveals that consumers are experiencing a “permission to indulge” on a more regular basis. Some of the company’s new products catering to this trend are Häägen-Dazs Stick Bars; Annie’s Refrigerated Dough – Sweet organic treats including Cinnamon Rolls, Crescent Rolls, Flaky Biscuits, Chocolate Chunk Cookies and Vanilla Sugar Cookies all made with unbleached flour and without artificial flavours, synthetic colors, preservatives, hydrogenated oils or high-fructose corn syrup; and Yoki popcorn.
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To keep pace with the changing needs of consumers and to deliver new products to market faster than before, General Mills has changed its innovation strategy.
“In order to support the growth we’ve planned, we have moved toward a more entrepreneurial approach to new product development, which not only speeds innovation, but helps us put our consumers first and deliver exciting, relevant new products that meet consumer needs and drive topline growth,” said Peter Erickson, executive vice president of innovation, technology and quality.
One of the ways the company is achieving this is through what it calls “lemonade stands”, where product development teams go into businesses with a product concept and set up a table to interact with people there.
These enable teams to more quickly test new product ideas with consumers and gain valuable feedback earlier in the new product development process.
In many cases, the company’s new development processes have managed to halve the time it typically takes for products to reach market, from about 24 months to less than 12 months.
Last month, General Mills reported higher annual earnings, although net sales were down 6%, reflecting the impact of exchange rates, a week less selling time and the sale of the Green Giant brand. However, stripping out one-off items and FX, sales were flat.