Today we started our day at General Mills. Did you start your day with General Mills? The #1 cereal in the US is Honey Nut Cheerios.
General Mills has 35,000 employees around the world. There are about 7000, here at their headquarters. As a teacher going into this corporate campus it was so completely different from a typical day. The phrase, “it’s so adult” kept going through my head. Maybe I feel more like a kid since I’m around them all the time.
General Mills thinks of themselves as a “House of Brands.” When you look at the photo above, there are several brands, but they are all General Mills products. They don’t all have the big G on them. Some common other ones are Yoplait, Nature Valley, FiberOne, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Progresso, Betty Crocker and many more. When you think about it, General Mills touches you in many parts of your day.
Our time started with an overview of the company, then we had a question and answer session with people who work in their marketing division and we ended with a short tour. A lot of what we learned about had to do with the marketing of products and how General Mills looks at the health needs of consumers. One of the needs that they saw was to reduce the amount of sugar in their cereals. They realized that they couldn’t just go from 16g per serving down to 9g. It’s so much of a change that people wouldn’t buy the product. So over the years, General Mills has gradually been decreasing the amount of sugar in its cereals and retraining our palettes for less sugar. Now all of their cereals have less than 10g per serving.
Another interesting marketing gold mine was the need for gluten-free products. In 2007, they realized that with a little tweaking, their Chex brand of cereals could all be gluten-free. When they made that switch and started marketing it as gluten-free, they saw a significant increase in people buying Chex. They also revamped the old (2 hours in the oven) way of making Chex mix so it was a 15 minutes in the microwave. They had to adapt to today’s consumer that doesn’t have the time to do it the old way.
The ideas that are generated are quite interesting. Putting yogurt in a tube so kids wouldn’t need a spoon to eat it, teaming up with the Susan G. Komen Foundation for lids on yogurt to promote breast cancer research, Nature Valley’s Preserve the Parks Program, and Box Tops for Education are just a few of the programs that are marketing of General Mills products.
As an employee, it sounds like General Mills is a great place to work. They have a rotational structure, so they take your core expertise and apply it in different areas. Many of the employees that we heard from today had worked in several areas: cereal, box tops for education, packaging design, coupons, yoplait, etc. They all had different educational backgrounds. But they were all excited to work for this company and had attitudes that fostered creative thinking and excellence in their work. A phrase that kept coming up is that they “do the right thing, even when no one is looking.”
General Mills makes it easier for its employees at that location to be productive by providing conveniences at their fingertips. They have a daycare for children up to 16 months, there is a doctor’s office, an Aveda hair salon, Caribou Coffee, D’Amico and Sons Catering, a gas station with a full service repair shop next to the parking lot, and a company store. On our way out, we could stop at the store to check it out. The prices were better than a grocery store and there were a few products that can’t yet be found. We were given our choice of three cereals and the bowl. I purchased a couple of bags of chips – sweet potato and cheddar. Someone recommended the Muir Glen Ketchup, and the Progresso recipe starter is a new product.
How can I use this visit in my classroom? I have a much better understanding of how marketing works and the different types of jobs in marketing. When my students ask about careers, I have a better sense of this type of business. As far as the degree that is needed, it doesn’t seem like it has to be all that specific. But the main things that we came away with, in the words of our visit coordinator, 1. Be able to adapt, 2. Be open-minded, 3. Be a maker – someone who makes things happen for yourself. This is great advice for anyone. I thoroughly enjoyed this visit.