General Mills

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General Mills, Inc.
S&P 500 component
IndustryFood processing
FoundedJune 20, 1866; 155 years ago (1866-06-20)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
United States
Area served
Key people
Jeffrey Harmening
(Chairman) and (CEO)
ProductsBaking mixes, breakfast cereals, yogurt, refrigerated dough, soup, pizza, snack foods, ice cream, soy products, vegetables, flour, other food products, and video games
RevenueIncrease US$17.63 billion (2020)[1]
Increase US$2.60 billion (2020)[1]
Increase US$2.18 billion (2020)[1]
Total assetsIncrease US$31.37 billion (2020)[1]
Total equityIncrease US$8.89 billion (2020)[1]
Number of employees
~35,000 (2020)[1]

General Mills, Inc., nicknamed "Big G", is an American multinational manufacturer and marketer of branded consumer foods sold through retail stores. It is headquartered in Golden Valley, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. The company markets many well-known North American brands, including Gold Medal flour, Annie's Homegrown, Lärabar, Cascadian Farm, Betty Crocker, Yoplait, Nature Valley, Totino's, Pillsbury, Old El Paso, Häagen-Dazs, Cheerios, and Chex.


Advertisement, late 1880s

Washburn-Crosby Company[edit]

The company can trace its history to the Minneapolis Milling Company, incorporated in 1856.[2] The company was founded by Illinois Congressman Robert Smith, who leased power rights to flour mills operating along the west side of Saint Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 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, producing winter wheat Flour. That same year Washburn sent William Hood Dunwoody to England to open the market for spring wheat.[3] Dunwoody was successful and became a silent partner.

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.[4] 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 after the old grinding stones were replaced with automatic steel rollers, the first ever used.

In 1880, Washburn-Crosby flour brands won gold, silver and bronze medals at the Millers' International Exhibition in Cincinnati, causing them to launch the Gold Medal flour brand.[5]

In 1924, the company acquired a failing Twin Cities radio station, WLAG, renaming it WCCO (from Washburn-Crosby Company).


General Mills itself was created in June 1928[6] when Washburn-Crosby President James Ford Bell merged Washburn-Crosby with three other mills.[7]

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.[8]

Postcard image of the Gold Medal Flour factory in Minneapolis c. 1900

The newly merged company paid a dividend in 1928, and has continued the dividend uninterrupted since then–one of only a few companies to pay a dividend every year since then.[6]

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.

Aeronautical Research Division and Electronics Division[edit]

In 1946, General Mills established their Aeronautical Research Division with chief engineer Otto C. Winzen. This division developed high altitude balloons in conjunction with the United States Navy Office of Naval Research (ONR), such as the Skyhook balloon.[9]

The Aeronautical work of General Mills done around the time of the second World War is continued by the company Raven Industries in their Raven Aerostar department.[10]

The General Mills Electronics division developed the DSV Alvin submersible, which is notable for being used in investigating the wreck of Titanic among other deep-sea exploration missions.[11]

Merchandising and television[edit]

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.

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 sponsorship came to an end in 1961.

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

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.[12] The company also was a sponsor of the ABC western series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, starring Hugh O'Brian.

Diversification: toys and restaurants[edit]

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 significant because it brought production costs down and tripled the revenue.

In 1967, General Mills bought the Kenner toy company.

General Mills came out with their "Monster Cereals" in the 1970s. The cereals are now produced and sold seasonally around Halloween.[13]

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.[14] The company eventually converted the restaurants into other chain restaurants they were operating, such as Red Lobster.[15][16] 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.[17]

Recent history[edit]

In 1990, a joint venture with Nestlé S.A. called Cereal Partners was formed[18] 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 (sans Burger King) 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. The company also started manufacturing their child-targeted cereals with less sugar.[19][20] General Mills has reduced the level of sugar in all cereals advertised to children to 11 grams per serving.[21]

In April 2011, General Mills announced that it will switch all 1 million eggs it uses each year to cage-free.[22]

General Mills was ranked #181 on the 2012 Fortune 500 list of America's largest corporations,[23] 161 in 2015 and was the third-largest food consumer products company in the United States.[24] 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".[25] The company received positive feedback for its stand which might attract people to its global workforce.[26]

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.[27] 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.[28]

In 2015, citing climate change, General Mills promised to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent over 10 years.[29][30] In December 2016, the company announced it would be restructuring, splitting into four business groups based on global region, and cutting as many as 600 jobs.[31]

In February 2018, the company entered into the pet products industry, paying $8 billion to buy Blue Buffalo Pet Products, Inc.[32] As of 2018, the company ranked 182nd on the Fortune 500 list of the largest United States corporations by revenue.[33]

Having launched its first regenerative agriculture pilot program in March 2019, the company has plans to improve soil health on 1 million acres of farmland by 2030.[34]

In February 2020, General Mills was recognized by CDP as a global leader in corporate sustainability and received a place on the CDP "A List" for both climate change and water security.[35]


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.[36][37] The change was made shortly after a judge's March 26, 2014, denial of a motion to dismiss a class action regarding the marketing of the company's Nature Valley brand products.[37] 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.[38][39] 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;[36] General Mills disclaimed that interpretation, calling it a "mischaracterization".[39][40][41] 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.[42]

Involvement in Israeli settlements[edit]

On 12 February 2020, the United Nations published a database of companies doing business related in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in the occupied Golan Heights.[43] General Mills was listed on the database on account of the activities of its subsidy General Mills Israel in Israeli settlements in these occupied territories,[44] which are considered illegal under international law.[45]


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.[18]

Discontinued cereals[edit]

General Mills cereals no longer manufactured include:

  • Banana Wackies / Wackies (introduced 1965; discontinued 1968)[48]
  • Baron Von Redberry and Sir Grapefellow (introduced 1972, discontinued 1975)[49]
  • Benefit (which contained psyllium, an Indian-grown grain used as a laxative and cholesterol-reducer)[50]
  • Body Buddies (introduced 1979; two flavors, Brown Sugar & Honey and Natural Fruit Flavor)[51]
  • Buc Wheats[51]
  • Buñuelitos ("Sweetened corn puffs with cinnamon and a touch of honey... Traditional south of the border flavor made right here in the U.S.A.")[52]
  • Chocolate Flavor Donutz (introduced 1982; discontinued 1984)
  • Circus Fun (introduced 1986; discontinued 1989)[53]
  • Clackers (introduced 1968; discontinued 1973)[54] - graham cracker-flavored
  • Clusters (introduced 1987)[55]
  • Country Corn Flakes (introduced 1961)[56]
  • Crazy Cow - A chocolate corn cereal which resembles cocoa puffs (introduced 1978, discontinued, 1980)[57]
  • Crispy Wheats 'n Raisins (introduced 1980)[58]
  • E.T. Cereal (introduced 1984, discontinued 1986)[59]
  • Fingos ("The Cereal Made to Eat with Your Fingers")[59]
  • Frosty O's (introduced 1959; discontinued 1979)[60]
  • Fruit Brute (introduced 1974; discontinued 1982)[61]
  • Fruity Yummy Mummy[62]
  • Goodness Pack, an assortment of eight single-serving boxes of different cereals,[63] designed to compete with Kellogg's and Post Cereals assortments
  • Harmony[64]
  • Hi-Pro (introduced 1958; discontinued 1964)
  • Hidden Treasures[59]
  • Ice Cream Cones (vanilla, chocolate, chocolate chip flavors; introduced 1987, discontinued same year; briefly reintroduced in 2003)[59]
  • Jets (formerly Sugar Jets; discontinued 1974)
  • Jurassic Park Crunch[65]
  • Kaboom (introduced 1969)
  • Millenios from Cheerios[66]
  • Mr. Wonderful's Surprise ("Only Cereal with a Creamy Chocolate Filling")[67]
  • Monopoly Cereal[51]
  • Neopets Islandberry Crunch (based on the Neopets online virtual pet community)[68]
  • Pac-Man Cereal[69]
  • Peanut Butter Toast Crunch[70]
  • Powdered Donutz (introduced 1981; discontinued 1984)[59]
  • Princess Fairytale Flakes[71]
  • Ripple Crisp[65]
  • Rocky Road[59]
  • S'Mores Grahams / S'Mores Crunch[59]
  • Sprinkle Spangles[59]
  • Star Wars Episode II (based on the 2002 film Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones)[72]
  • Strawberry Shortcake[59]
  • Sugar Jets (introduced 1954)[73]
  • Sunrise Organic[74]
  • Triples (introduced 1991)[65]
  • Twinkles (introduced 1960; discontinued 1973)[75]
  • USA Olympic Crunch (a tie-in with the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan)[76]
  • Wheat Hearts
  • Wheaties Dunk-a-Balls[65]
  • Wheat Stax (introduced 1966; discontinued 1971) ("Now there's a cereal you can stack")[77]

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 Annie's, Blue Buffalo, Frescarini, Latina, Totino's, Jeno's, Progresso, Colombo, Lärabar, and Yoplait (51%). It also produces Häagen-Dazs ice cream outside of the U.S. and Canada. General Mills acquired the meat-based brand Epic Provisions in 2016.[78]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "General Mills, Inc. 2020 Annual Report (Form 10-K)" (PDF). U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. June 2020.
  2. ^ "Mill City Timeline". Retrieved September 13, 2014.
  3. ^ "The Story of a Grain of Wheat". Angelfire.
  4. ^ "Washburn 'A' Mill Explosion". History Topics. Minnesota Historical Society. Archived from the original on July 3, 2013. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
  5. ^ Gray, James (1954). Business without Boundary: The Story of General Mills. University of Minnesota Press. p. 36. LCCN 54-10286.
  6. ^ a b "General Mills 150 - Making Food People Love". Retrieved April 5, 2016.
  7. ^ Staff report (May 8, 1961). JAMES FORD BELL OF GENERAL MILLS; Founder of Concern Is Dead at 81 -- Was Philanthropist New York Times
  8. ^ "J. W. Williams, "Frank Kell"". Retrieved April 16, 2013.
  9. ^ "The "daddy" of the balloon industry". Taste of General Mills blog. General Mills. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  10. ^ "History". Raven Aerostar. September 2, 2021.
  11. ^ "Our connection to Alvin". Taste of General Mills blog. General Mills. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  12. ^ "Whatever Happened to Total TeleVision productions?". Hogan's Alley. Archived from the original on September 14, 2014. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
  13. ^ Morioka, Lynne (August 20, 2013). "The return of two General Mills monsters". Retrieved March 26, 2014.
  14. ^ "General Mills announces purchase of Good Earth Restaurant chain". Lakeland Ledger. November 8, 1980.
  15. ^ Akst, Daniel (March 11, 1986). "Brothers Plan Growth for Good Earth Chain - Los Angeles Times". Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  16. ^ "February Openings Set For Theme Restaurants". The Daytona Beach News-Journal. October 9, 1982.
  17. ^ Ward, Arthur(2009), The Boys' Book of Airfix London: Ebury Press (Ebury Publishing).
  18. ^ a b "About us – Nestle Cereals". Cereal Partners UK. Archived from the original on February 26, 2012.
  19. ^ Horovitz, Bruce (September 30, 2004). "Cereals go whole grain". USA Today. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  20. ^ "General Mills: Our History". General Mills.
  21. ^ "General Mills to Cut Sugar in Kids' Cereals". Alegent Health System.
  22. ^ "General Mills Announces New Cage-Free Egg Commitment" (Press release). Humane Society. April 20, 2011. Retrieved March 26, 2014.
  23. ^ "Fortune 500 – Full List". Fortune. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
  24. ^ "Fortune 500 – Industries". Fortune. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
  25. ^ Staff (June 14, 2012). "General Mills against amendment banning gay marriage". MSNBC. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  26. ^ Brucato, Cyndy (June 18, 2012). "Why General Mills didn't get hammered for speaking out on marriage amendment". Archived from the original on May 31, 2013. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  27. ^ General Mills to buy organic food producer Annie's for $820 million. Reuters, September 9, 2014
  28. ^ "General Mills plans to cut about 700 to 800 jobs". USA Today. Retrieved October 1, 2014.
  29. ^ "General Mills announces new commitment on climate change" (Press release). General Mills. August 30, 2015. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  30. ^ Behr, Jonathan (September 3, 2015). "Why General Mills is tackling global warming". CBS News. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  31. ^ "General Mills Plans to Cut 600 Jobs in Global Restructuring". Fortune. December 5, 2016. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  32. ^ Giammona, Craig (February 23, 2018). "General Mills Pays Steep Price to Get Into High-Growth Business". Bloomberg. Retrieved February 23, 2018.
  33. ^ "Fortune 500 Companies 2018: Who Made the List". Fortune. Retrieved November 22, 2018.
  34. ^ "Regenerative Agriculture". Retrieved October 20, 2020.
  35. ^ "General Mills Awarded Prestigious CDP A List Awards for Climate and Water Actions for Second Consecutive Year". Retrieved March 17, 2020.
  36. ^ a b Strom, Stephanie (April 16, 2014). "When 'Liking' a Brand Online Voids the Right to Sue". The New York Times. Retrieved July 8, 2014.
  37. ^ a b Weiss, Debra Cassens (April 17, 2014). "Buying a General Mills product eliminates the right to sue, according to online legal terms". ABAJournal. American Bar Association. Retrieved July 8, 2014.
  38. ^ Sherman, Erik (April 18, 2014). "General Mills adds legal fine print that raises questions". CBS News. Retrieved July 8, 2014.
  39. ^ a b Strom, Stephanie (April 17, 2014). "General Mills Amends New Legal Policies". The New York Times. Retrieved July 8, 2014.
  40. ^ Gray, Jeff (April 19, 2014). "General Mills abandons controversial legal policy to strip consumers of rights". The Globe And Mail. Retrieved July 8, 2014.
  41. ^ Foster, Kirstie (April 19, 2014). "We've listened – and we're changing our legal terms back". General Mills. Retrieved December 9, 2014.
  42. ^ Murphy, Esme (April 20, 2014). "Talking Points: General Mills Reverses Lawsuit Change". CBS Minnesota. WCCO-TV. Retrieved July 8, 2014.
  43. ^ "Database of all business enterprises involved in certain activities relating to Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank (A/HRC/43/71)". UN OCHA. February 12, 2020. Retrieved September 12, 2021.
  44. ^ "UN rights office issues report on business activities related to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory". Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. February 12, 2020. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  45. ^ "S/RES/2334(2016)". United Nations Security Council. December 23, 2016. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  46. ^ Gregory Wallace (December 8, 2014). "French Toast Crunch cereal is back". CNNMoney.
  47. ^ Dalvin Brown (February 20, 2020). "Is $13 too much for a box of cereal? General Mills doesn't think so". USA Today. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  48. ^ 1965 General Mills Banana Wackies cereal TV commercial (15 seconds). March 19, 2013. Archived from the original on May 27, 2015 – via YouTube.
  49. ^ 1972 Baron Von Redberry cereal w/iron-on patches promotion TV commercial. April 8, 2012. Archived from the original on October 21, 2013 – via YouTube.
  50. ^ "Benefit Cereal -".
  51. ^ a b c "A Tribute to Discontinued Cereals". Gunaxin Grub. March 5, 2009.
  52. ^ "Bunuelitos Cereal -".
  53. ^ 1986 General Mills Circus Fun cereal commercial. July 2, 2011. Archived from the original on November 7, 2021 – via YouTube.
  54. ^ VINTAGE TV COMMERCIAL - CLACKERS CEREAL - MAN TRYING TO KARATE CHOP A CLACKERS BOX. November 30, 2011. Archived from the original on November 7, 2021 – via YouTube.
  55. ^ "Clusters Cereal -".
  56. ^ Country Corn Flakes Commercial (1963). September 12, 2008. Archived from the original on November 7, 2021 – via YouTube.
  57. ^ 1978 Crazy Cow Cereal TV commercial. November 8, 2011. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012 – via YouTube.
  58. ^ 1986 General Mills Crispy Wheats 'n Raisins cereal commercial. July 2, 2011. Archived from the original on November 7, 2021 – via YouTube.
  59. ^ a b c d e f g h i "54 Cereals We Loved and Lost - A Tribute". Urlesque. Archived from the original on March 2, 2012.
  60. ^ FROSTY O'S CEREAL COMMERCIAL 1966. March 15, 2010. Archived from the original on May 29, 2015 – via YouTube.
  61. ^ FRUIT BRUTE! The First one!. July 19, 2009. Archived from the original on November 7, 2021 – via YouTube.
  62. ^ First Yummy Mummy!. May 23, 2009. Archived from the original on November 7, 2021 – via YouTube.
  63. ^ 1959 General Mills Cereal Commercials Rocky and Bullwinkle 2. January 14, 2014. Archived from the original on November 7, 2021 – via YouTube.
  64. ^ "Harmony Cereal -".
  65. ^ a b c d "26 Cereals From The '90s You'll Never Be Able To Eat Again". BuzzFeed.
  66. ^ "Millenios Cereal -".
  67. ^ "Chiller - Scary Good".
  68. ^ "Neopets Islandberry Crunch Cereal -".
  69. ^ Pac-Man cereal commercial (early 80's). December 14, 2006. Archived from the original on November 7, 2021 – via YouTube.
  70. ^ "Peanut Butter Toast Crunch Cereal -".
  71. ^ "Princess Fairytale Flakes Cereal -".
  72. ^ "Star Wars Episode II Cereal -".
  73. ^ 1964 Sugar Jets cereal TV commercial (15 seconds). January 22, 2013. Archived from the original on January 18, 2016 – via YouTube.
  74. ^ "Sunrise Cereal -".
  75. ^ 1960's General Mills Twinkles Cereal and Cartoon Commercial. May 13, 2013. Archived from the original on November 7, 2021 – via YouTube.
  76. ^ "USA Olympic Crunch Cereal -".
  77. ^ "Wheat Stax Cereal -".
  78. ^ "General Mills, craving organic meat snacks, buys Epic Provisions". The Street. Retrieved March 5, 2016.

External links[edit]