November 21, 2014

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Influencing Consumer Behavior, Ensuring Food Safety: General Mills Wraps Up

Food safety leadership is a differentiator for General Mills but not an area of competition.

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By Jerry Lynch, VP and Chief Sustainability Officer, General Mills

A huge thank you to all those who participated in our recent sustainable sourcing Twitter chat on April 23rd. It was great to have so many engaged thought leaders and industry professionals join in the conversation. The energy you all brought to the chat was electric, and it’s great to know that there are so many who share our passion for sustainable sourcing and environmental sustainability.

Yesterday, I responded to questions from several participants on the many threads of our work with suppliers and farmers as well as the topic of verification and transparency. Today, along with Sourcing Director Steve Peterson, I'm going to focus on the remaining categories:

  • Nutrition
  • Food Safety
  • Influencing Consumer Behavior

Nutrition

Two of our chat participants – @minifund and @beltwits – asked about sugar and what we’re doing to decrease sugar levels in our products. This is an area where we’ve dedicated a great amount of effort.

We know that consumers are looking for products that are healthy but also taste great. Since 2004, General Mills has increased R&D spending on health and wellness by 60 percent in order to deliver on this consumer demand.

Since 2005, we have improved the health profile of nearly three-quarters of our U.S. retail sales volume and can now point to achievements such as:

  • Fifty percent of General Mills’ U.S. retail products now have 150 calories or less per serving;
  • Every Big G cereal now has more whole grains than any other single ingredient;
  • Sodium reductions across our portfolio, including significant sodium reductions in several varieties of Helper meals, which now contain at least 20 percent less sodium than in 2008, and many canned and frozen vegetables.

In addition, 100 percent of General Mills cereals marketed to children now contain 10 grams of sugar or lessGenMills health metric per serving.

In the U.S., since 2007, we have lowered sugar levels in Big G kid cereals by 16 percent. In 2013, we reduced sugar by 10 percent in Oatmeal Crisp Hearty Raisin and Oatmeal Crisp Crunchy Almond cereals.

Also, since 2007, General Mills has reduced sugar in our main kid yogurts (Yoplait Go-GURT, Yoplait Trix and Yoplait Kids) by a line average of 24 percent. In our granola bars, we have reduced sugar in several varieties of Cascadian Farm chewy granola bars by more than 10 percent.

We will continue to work towards additional sugar reductions across our portfolio of brands.

Food Safety

@ipura asked: “To what degree does @myGFSI influence decisions & actions taken by General Mills toward sustainability?”

General Mills is a recognized leader in food safety. We use rigorous processes and verification systems at our facilities and audit all our suppliers. By sharing our best practices across the industry and training suppliers to meet international food safety standards, we’re working on improving food safety around the world.

Food safety leadership is a differentiator for General Mills but not an area of competition. We share best practices freely. For example, in Brazil (where we acquired the Yoki food business in fiscal 2013), we helped build local food safety capacity by piloting the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) global markets program to help suppliers in Brazil prepare for future GFSI certification.

Influencing Consumer Behavior

Many chat participants – including @carrotNYjulie – wanted to know what we’re doing to spread the word and educate our employees and consumers on our sustainability efforts.

That was one of the reasons we wanted to do a Twitter chat – our first ever! We believe it’s important to encourage sustainable practices among employees, customers, consumers and our peers in the industry. And we know that consumers are increasingly looking to brands to share what they stand for and what they’re doing to make the world a better place.

We frequently share updates on our sustainability programs on our Taste of General Mills blog and social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook, and of course, through our annual Global Responsibility Report.

Many of our brands like Haagen-Dazs, Nature Valley, Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen have programs underway that promote sustainability. For example, Nature Valley hosted the Quietest Show on Earth in 2012 to encourage consumers to help preserve America’s national parks by getting outside and exploring all that parks have to offer. And, Muir Glen isbees raising awareness raising awareness for the plight of honeybees.

Internally, our Applied Sustainability team regularly holds seminars and lunch-and-learns to educate employees about sustainability initiatives. One of these sessions is called Noodles and Nourishing Lives. We don’t always serve noodles but each event promises an inspiring speaker – both internal and external – and a great discussion of how we can improve our sustainability practices at a corporate level and as individuals in our homes.

And, of course, in the era of online connectivity, we daily share questions, inspiration, updates and more via our internal “Connect” site that, in the same vain as Twitter, hosts communities of employees who share common interests and the desire to learn from each other.

I hope this helps address the questions we weren’t able to get to during our Twitter chat. Again, thanks to everyone who took time to participate. It was fun hearing from you and we hope you’ll continue to engage with us on our work. We’re proud of our accomplishments but the there is much more to be done.

Look for more news—and opportunities for engagement—soon!

Part 1: Increased Disclosure & Supply Chain Responsibility: General Mills Responds

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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