General Mills

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General Mills, Inc.
Traded as NYSEGIS
S&P 500 Component
Industry Food processing
Founded Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. (1866 (1866))
Founders Cadwallader C. Washburn, John Crosby
Headquarters Golden Valley, Minnesota, United States
Area served
Key people
Kendall J. Powell
(Chairman and CEO)
Products Baking mixes, Breakfast cereals, yogurt, refrigerated dough, soup, pizza, snack foods, ice cream, soy products, vegetables, flour, and other food products...
Revenue Increase US$ 17.90 billion (2014)[1]
Increase US$ 02.95 billion (2014)[1]
Profit Increase US$ 01.82 billion (2014)[1]
Total assets Increase US$ 23.14 billion (2014)[1]
Total equity Decrease US$ 06.53 billion (2014)[1]
Number of employees
43,000 (2014)[1]

General Mills, Inc. is an American multinational manufacturer and marketer of branded consumer foods sold through retail stores. Its headquartered in the Minneapolis suburb of Golden Valley, Minnesota. The company markets many well-known North American brands, such as Betty Crocker, Yoplait, Colombo, Totino's, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Old El Paso, Häagen-Dazs, Cheerios, Trix, and Lucky Charms. Its brand portfolio includes more than 89 other leading U.S. brands and numerous category leaders around the world.[2]


Advertisement, late 1880s

The company can trace its history to the Minneapolis Milling Company, incorporated in 1856.[3] The company was founded by Illinois Congressman Robert Smith, who leased power rights to mills operating along the west side of the Saint Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River. Cadwallader C. Washburn acquired the company shortly after its founding and hired his brother, William D. Washburn to assist in the company's development. In 1866, the Washburns got into the business themselves, building the Washburn "B" Mill at the falls. At the time, the building was considered to be so large and output so vast that it could not possibly sustain itself. However, the company succeeded, and in 1874 he built the even bigger Washburn "A" Mill.

In 1877, the mill entered a partnership with John Crosby to form the Washburn-Crosby Company. In that same year, Washburn sent William Hood Dunwoody to England to open the market for spring wheat.[4] Dunwoody was successful and became a silent partner. Dunwoody would become immensely wealthy and went on to endow a Minneapolis hospital, Dunwoody Institute (now Dunwoody College of Technology), and a charitable home in Pennsylvania, Dunwoody Village.

In 1878, the "A" mill was destroyed in a flour dust explosion along with five nearby buildings. The ensuing fire led to the death of 18 workers.[5] Construction of a new mill began immediately. Not only was the new mill safer but it also was able to produce a higher quality flour. The old grinding stones were replaced with automatic steel rollers. These new rollers were the first used throughout the world. These new rollers also were capable of producing more nutritious flour. Winter Wheat Flour was replaced by this new flour.

In 1924, the company stepped in to take over a failing Twin Cities radio station, WLAG, renaming it WCCO (from Washburn-Crosby Company). General Mills itself was created in 1928 when Washburn-Crosby President James Ford Bell directed his company to merge with 26 other mills.

In 1928, General Mills acquired the Wichita Mill and Elevator Company of the industrialist Frank Kell of Wichita Falls, Texas. With the sale, Kell acquired cash plus stock in the corporation.[6]

Postcard image of the Gold Medal Flour factory in Minneapolis around 1900

Beginning in 1929, General Mills products contained box top coupons, known as Betty Crocker coupons, with varying point values, which were redeemable for discounts on a variety of housewares products featured in the widely distributed Betty Crocker catalog. The coupons and the catalog were discontinued by the company in 2006. A similar program, Box Tops for Education, in which coupon icons clipped off various General Mills products can be redeemed by schools for cash, started in 1996 and is still active.[7]

General Mills became the sponsor of the popular radio show The Lone Ranger in 1941. The show was then brought to television, and, after 20 years, their long-term sponsorship came to an end in 1961.

Former site of General Mills today on the Mississippi River at Minneapolis

The first venture General Mills took into the toy industry was in 1965. The company bought Rainbow Crafts, which was the manufacturer of Play-Doh. General Mills' purchase of the company was substantial because it brought production costs down and tripled the revenue.

Beginning in 1959, General Mills sponsored the Rocky and His Friends television series, later known as The Bullwinkle Show. Until 1968, Rocky and Bullwinkle were featured in a variety of advertisements for General Mills. General Mills was also a sponsor of the Saturday-morning cartoons from the Total TeleVision productions studio, including Tennessee Tuxedo.[8] The company also was a sponsor of the ABC western series, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, starring Hugh O'Brian.

General Mills came out with their "Monster Cereals" in the 1970s. The cereals are now produced and sold seasonally around Halloween.[9]

In 1970, General Mills acquired a five-unit restaurant company called Red Lobster and expanded it nationwide. Soon, a division of General Mills titled General Mills Restaurants developed to take charge of the Red Lobster chain. In 1980, General Mills acquired the California based Good Earth health food restaurant chain.[10] GM eventually converted the restaurants into other chain restaurants they were operating, such as Red Lobster.[11][12] In 1982, General Mills Restaurants founded a new Italian-themed restaurant chain called Olive Garden. Another themed restaurant, China Coast, was added before the entire group was spun off to General Mills shareholders in 1995 as Darden Restaurants.

During the same decade, General Mills ventured further, starting the General Mills Specialty Retail Group. They acquired two clothing and apparel companies, Talbots and Eddie Bauer. The acquisition was short-lived. Talbots was purchased by a Japanese company, then known as JUSCO, and the Spiegel company purchased Bauer. Spiegel later declared bankruptcy, yet Bauer still remains, albeit in a smaller presence in the United States today.

Washburn "A" Mill, the producer of Gold Medal Flour, now the Minnesota Historical Society Mill City Museum

From 1976 to 1985, General Mills went to court as the parent company of Parker Brothers, which held the rights on the brand name and gaming idea of the board game Monopoly, claiming that the so-called Anti-Monopoly game of an economics professor infringed their trademark. The dispute extended up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against them, saying that while they have exclusive rights to the game Monopoly, they can not prevent others from using the word "monopoly" in the name of a game.

In 1985, General Mills' toy division was separated from its parent as Kenner Parker Toys, Inc. There were many potential acquirers of the business but it was floated on the stock exchange with General Mills' shareholders getting equivalent shares in Kenner Parker. This was more tax efficient for General Mills.[13]

In 1990, a joint venture with Nestlé S.A. called Cereal Partners was formed[14] which markets cereals (including many existing General Mills cereal brands) outside the US and Canada under the Nestlé name.

In 2001, the company purchased Pillsbury from Diageo, although it was officially described as a "merger".

Since 2004, General Mills has been producing more products targeted to the growing ranks of health-conscious consumers. The company has chosen to switch its entire breakfast cereal line to whole grain. According to nutritionists, whole grains are a much healthier choice when choosing grain products. The company also started manufacturing their child-targeted cereals with less sugar.[15][16] General Mills has reduced the level of sugar to all cereals advertised to children to 11 grams per serving.[17] On December 26, 2004, Peel, Michael A., officer of General Mills Inc, exercised an option for 27,562 shares of common at $26.22 each on Dec. 16.[18]

In 2010, they were criticized by nutrition journalists for multiplying the amount of sugar in Cascadian Farms' Purely O's three-fold, without notifying customers on the cereal's boxes. Corn meal and tapioca syrup were also quietly added to the new version of the cereal.[19]

The company's recent marketing to children included the advergame Millsberry, a virtual city that included games featuring General Mills products. The site launched in August 2004 and ran through December 2010.[citation needed]

In April, 2011 General Mills announced that it will switch all 1 million eggs it uses each year to cage-free.[20]

General Mills was ranked #181 on the 2012 Fortune 500 list of America's largest corporations[21] and was the third-largest food consumer products company in the United States.[22]

During June 2012, the company's vice-president for diversity stated that General Mills opposes a Minnesota amendment banning gay marriage, stating that the company values "inclusion".[23] The company received positive feedback for its stand which might attract people to its global workforce.[24]

The company announced in September 2014 that it would acquire organic food producer Annie’s Inc. for a fee of around $820 million, as part of its strategy to expand in the US natural foods market.[25]

In October 2014, General Mills announced plans to cut 700 to 800 jobs, mostly in U.S., in corporate restructuring planned to be completed by the end of 2015.[26]

Engineering milestones[edit]

General Mills' corporate campus in Golden Valley, Minnesota.
  • 1930s: General Mills engineer, Thomas R. James, creates the puffing gun, which inflates or distorts cereal pieces into puffed up shapes. This new technology was used in 1937 to create Kix cereal and in 1941 to create Cheerioats (known today as Cheerios).
  • 1939: General Mills engineer Helmer Anderson creates the Anderson sealer. This new device allowed for bags of flour to be sealed with glue instead of just being tied with a string.
  • 1956: General Mills creates the tear-strip for easily opening packages[clarification needed]

Corporate governance[edit]

As of April 2010, the company's management included:[27]

Change to legal terms[edit]

In April 2014, the company announced that it had changed its legal terms on its website to introduce an arbitration clause requiring all disputes with General Mills to be resolved in small claims court or arbitration and not as a participant in a class action.[28][29] Users would be deemed to accept the terms by interacting with General Mills on its website in various ways, such as downloading coupons, subscribing to newsletters, or participating in Internet forums hosted on the website.[30][31] The New York Times stated that the agreement could be interpreted to additionally construe purchasing General Mills products at a grocery store or liking the company's Facebook page as assent to the terms;[28] General Mills disclaimed that interpretation, describing that interpretation as a "mischaracterization".[31][32][33] The change in terms resulted in a massive backlash of protests via consumer groups and social media, and General Mills reverted the terms back to the original content after only a few days.[34]

Company brands[edit]

Breakfast cereals[edit]

General Mills's breakfast cereals include:

Some brands are marketed outside the US and Canada by the Cereal Partners joint venture using the Nestlé brand.[14]

Discontinued cereals[edit]

General Mills cereals no longer manufactured include:

Baking goods[edit]

The company's baking-goods brands include:

It also produces fruit snacks, including Fruit by the Foot, Fruit Gushers, Fruit Roll-Ups, and Fruit Shapes.

Grain snacks[edit]

The company's grain-snack brands include:

Meal products[edit]

The company's meal products brands include:

Organic food[edit]

It also produces organic foods, via Cascadian Farm, which they took over when they bought Small Planet Foods, and Muir Glen. More recently, as of 2014, it has purchased Annie's Homegrown.

Other brands[edit]

Other company brands include Frescarini, Latina, Totino's, Jeno's, Progresso, Columbo, and Yoplait (51%). It also produces Häagen-Dazs ice cream outside of the US.

Company locations[edit]

As of 25 May 2008, 79 facilities for the production of a wide variety of food products were in operation.[70] Of these facilities, 49 are located in the US, 12 in the Asia/Pacific region (8 of which are leased), 5 in Canada (2 of which are leased), 7 in Europe (3 of which are leased), 5 in Latin America and Mexico, and one in South Africa.[71]

Principal production facilities are located in:

International bakeries and food service facilities are in:

  • Arras, France
  • Berwick, United Kingdom
  • Cagua, Venezuela
  • Guangzhou, China
  • Rooty Hill, Australia
  • Mt. Waverley, Australia
  • San Adrian, Spain

The company also has a Global Business Solutions (GBS) division in Mumbai, India. Its prominent brand in India is Pillsbury although it has opened a premium ice cream parlour of Häagen Dazs ice cream in Delhi and Mumbai.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "General Mills, Inc. 2014 Annual Report Form (10-K)" (XBRL). United States Securities and Exchange Commission. June 26, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Nourishing Lives". General Mills.
  3. ^ "Mill City Timeline". Retrieved 13 Sep 2014. 
  4. ^ "The Story of a Grain of Wheat". Angelfire.
  5. ^ "Washburn 'A' Mill Explosion". History Topics. Minnesota Historical Society. Retrieved May 9, 2012. 
  6. ^ "J. W. Williams, "Frank Kell"". Retrieved April 16, 2013. 
  7. ^ Box Tops for Education
  8. ^ Whatever Happened to Total TeleVision productions?, Hogan's Alley #16, 2007
  9. ^ Morioka, Lynne (Aug 20, 2013). "The return of two General Mills monsters". Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
  10. ^ "General Mills announces purchase of Good Earth Restaurant chain". Lakeland Ledger. Nov 8, 1980. 
  11. ^ Akst, Daniel (1986-03-11). "Brothers Plan Growth for Good Earth Chain - Los Angeles Times". Retrieved 2013-06-05. 
  12. ^,4690655&dq=good-earth+restaurant+chain&hl=en
  13. ^ Ward, Arthur(2009), The Boys' Book of Airfix London: Ebury Press (Ebury Publishing).
  14. ^ a b "About us – Nestle Cereals". Cereal Partners UK. 
  15. ^ Horovitz, Bruce (September 30, 2004). "Cereals go whole grain". USA Today. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  16. ^ "General Mills: Our History". General Mills.
  17. ^ "General Mills to Cut Sugar in Kids' Cereals". Alegent Health System.
  18. ^ "Executive trading". 
  19. ^ "Cascadian Purely O’s: betrayal or business as usual?". Jan 19, 2010. 
  20. ^ "General Mills Announces New Cage-Free Egg Commitment" (Press release). Humane Society. 20 April 2011. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
  21. ^ "Fortune 500 – Full List". Fortune. Retrieved May 9, 2012. 
  22. ^ "Fortune 500 – Industries". Fortune. Retrieved May 9, 2012. 
  23. ^ Staff (June 14, 2012). "General Mills against amendment banning gay marriage". MSNBC. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  24. ^ Brucato, Cyndy (June 18, 2012). "Why General Mills didn't get hammered for speaking out on marriage amendment". Retrieved August 24, 2012. 
  25. ^ General Mills to buy organic food producer Annie's for $820 million. Reuters, 9 September 2014
  26. ^ "General Mills plans to cut about 700 to 800 jobs". USA Today. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  27. ^ "General Mills: Biographies". General Mills.
  28. ^ a b Strom, Stephanie (2014-04-16). "When ‘Liking’ a Brand Online Voids the Right to Sue". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 July 2014. 
  29. ^ Weiss, Debra Cassens (2014-04-17). "Buying a General Mills product eliminates the right to sue, according to online legal terms". ABAJournal. American Bar Association. Retrieved 8 July 2014. 
  30. ^ Sherman, Erik (2014-04-18). "General Mills adds legal fine print that raises questions". CBS News. Retrieved 8 July 2014. 
  31. ^ a b Strom, Stephanie (2014-04-17). "General Mills Amends New Legal Policies". New York Times. Retrieved 8 July 2014. 
  32. ^ Gray, Jeff (2014-04-19). "General Mills abandons controversial legal policy to strip consumers of rights". The Globe And Mail. Retrieved 8 July 2014. 
  33. ^ Foster, Kirstie (2014-04-19). "We’ve listened – and we’re changing our legal terms back". General Mills. Retrieved 9 December 2014. 
  34. ^ Murphy, Esme (2014-04-20). "Talking Points: General Mills Reverses Lawsuit Change". CBS Minnesota. WCCO-TV. Retrieved 8 July 2014. 
  35. ^ "Curves Honey Crunch,"
  36. ^ "French Toast Crunch cereal is back,"
  37. ^ "Peanut Butter Toast Crunch,"
  38. ^ "Breakfast Bananas & Prissy Pancakes," The mind of a big cat,, January 26, 2012
  39. ^ 1965 General Mills Banana Wackies cereal TV commercial, YouTube
  40. ^ 1972 Baron Von Redberry cereal commercial, YouTube
  41. ^ "Benefit,"
  42. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Buckholtz, Hillary, "54 Cereals We Loved and Lost – A Tribute,", March 2, 2011
  43. ^ a b c Tropf, Zach, "A Tribute to Discontinued Cereals,", March 4, 2009
  44. ^ "Buñuelitos,"
  45. ^ 1986 General Mills Circus Fun cereal commercial, YouTube
  46. ^ Vintage TV Commercial: Clackers Cereal, YouTube
  47. ^ "Clusters,"
  48. ^ Country Corn Flakes Commercial (1963), YouTube
  49. ^ 1978 Crazy Cow Cereal TV commercial, YouTube
  50. ^ 1986 General Mills Crispy Wheats 'n Raisins cereal commercial, YouTube
  51. ^ Frosty O's Cereal Commercial 1966, YouTube
  52. ^ FRUIT BRUTE! The First one! YouTube
  53. ^ First Yummy Mummy! YouTube
  54. ^ 1959 General Mills Cereal Commercials Rocky and Bullwinkle 2, YouTube
  55. ^ "Harmony,"
  56. ^ Rocky and Bullwinkle for Jets Cereal, YouTube
  57. ^ a b c d Galindo, Brian, "26 Cereals From The ’90s You’ll Never Be Able To Eat Again," BuzzFeed,, May 3, 2013
  58. ^ "Millenios,"
  59. ^ Pruner, Aaron, "Ten of the Weirdest, Creepiest Breakfast Cereals Ever Made," FearNet,, March 17, 2014
  60. ^ "Neopets Islandberry Crunch,"
  61. ^ Pac-Man cereal commercial (early 80's), YouTube
  62. ^ "Princess Fairytale Flakes,"
  63. ^ "Star Wars Episode II,"
  64. ^ 1964 Sugar Jets cereal TV commercial, YouTube
  65. ^ "Sunrise,"
  66. ^ 1960's General Mills Twinkles Cereal and Cartoon Commercial, YouTube
  67. ^ "USA Olympic Crunch,"
  68. ^ Vintage Wheat Hearts Cereal Commercial, YouTube
  69. ^ "Wheat Stax,"
  70. ^ General Mills SEC Form 10K, filed July 11, 2008.
  71. ^ "FORM 10-K". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 

External links[edit]