Cocina Betty, opened last year, is geared toward U.S. Hispanic product development. There are spices such as cumin, fruits including tamarinds and guavas, and kitchen equipment such as tortilla presses and clay pottery.
On the shelves are brands from all over Latin America, including a popular cereal from Mexico called La Lechera Flakes that General Mills is launching in the U.S. Hispanic market this summer. La Lechera is owned by Nestle, with which General Mills has a 6-year-old international joint venture called Cereal Partners Worldwide, the second-largest cereal company outside North America.
Aside from new-product development, General Mills' biggest Hispanic initiative this year is the introduction this month of a free custom magazine called Que Rica Vida ("What a Rich, or Delicious, Life") as a multibrand platform.
"Que Rica Vida has content we know is important to Latinos, about education, meals, and health and wellness, with recipes by the Betty Crocker kitchen," said Rudy Rodriguez, General Mills' multicultural marketing director.
Almost 2 million copies will be mailed to consumers or given away by retailers in top Hispanic markets. The version mailed to consumers is entirely in Spanish, while the 32-page retail version is bilingual. The first issue includes coupons and nine pages of ads for General Mills cereals and other products, such as Yoplait, Progresso soups and Pillsbury refrigerated cookie dough. One ad is part of the print, TV and sampling campaign by Casanova Pendrill, Costa Mesa, Calif., for the U.S. launch of La Lechera Flakes.
Three times a year
The magazine, published with Spanish-language publisher Editorial Televisa, will come out three times a year, Mr. Rodriguez said.
His department also works with the brand managers responsible for General Mills products such as yogurt and cereal, categories where Hispanics show above-average consumption.
"We act as internal consultants and help develop ideas and bring more multicultural insights to the brand teams," Mr. Rodriguez said.
General Mills spent $10.2 million on Spanish-language media in 2005 and $4.6 million during the first five months of this year, according to TNS Media Intelligence. The biggest advertiser in the category is Kellogg Co., which spent $25.1 million in 2005 and $9.1 million this year through May.
General Mills is also working with muralist Xavier Cortada, who will paint murals in Miami, Houston and Los Angeles based on drawings submitted by local children through community organizations. General Mills will donate $10,000 to those groups, along with a well-known English course called Ingles sin Barreras.
African-American custom sections
In another multibrand effort for the African-American market, five mini-magazine advertising sections called Serving Up Soul will run in Essence magazine. Serving Up Soul features brands including Pillsbury Grands refrigerated buttermilk biscuits; Honey Nut Cheerios (as part of a cinnamon-popcorn snack); and a Hamburger Helper meal to be served with Betty Crocker cornbread, a new product this year.
With Hispanic and African-American multibrand initiatives under way, Mr. Rodriguez is also looking at marketing to Asian-Americans.
"We're doing a lot of research to try to understand which products are most relevant," he said.
'What's Black About It?'
Mr. Rodriguez is known for bringing multicultural experts to Minneapolis to speak to General Mills staffers at least once a quarter. Speakers have included African-American gospel star Yolanda Adams; staff from Essence magazine; and Pepper Miller, co-author of "What's Black About It? Insights to Increase Your Share of a Changing African-American Market."
"We always fill the auditorium," Mr. Rodriguez said.