CAGNY Conference

General Mills Targets Three Groups to Fuel Growth

Package-Food Giant Will Tailor Products, Marketing to Hispanics, Boomers and Millennials

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CHICAGO ( General Mills spelled out its recipe for profitable growth: Hispanics, baby boomers and millennials. The Minneapolis package-food company revealed products and marketing plans designed specifically for those segments at the Consumer Analysts Group of New York conference this morning.

Fiber One is popular among baby boomers aged 55 or older.
Fiber One is popular among baby boomers aged 55 or older.
"We think our categories and our brands are well-positioned for strong future growth because they are on trend with the evolving consumer needs," said Ian Friendly, chief operating officer and exec VP-U.S. retail. "We're anticipating a rise in multicultural consumers, particularly Hispanics, plus a growing number of aging baby boomers and the emergence of millennials as the next generation with significant influence in the marketplace." General Mills also has its eye on U.S. Census data -- and is therefore aware that the Hispanic market will be driving 53% of the population growth between now and 2015.

The marketer increased its Hispanic-targeted media spending 70% in 2009 and will boost support again in 2010. Marketing to the group begins with reaching mothers looking for ways to nurture their children. The marketer uses its "Que Vida Rica" marketing initiative to communicate with Hispanic mothers about the benefits of its products. A magazine by the same name offers nutrition tips and recipe suggestions. General Mills also uses mobile kitchens and in-store product samplings.

General Mills is also tailoring its approach with some successful general-market brands, such as Nature Valley, which is also popular with Hispanic consumers. Hispanic market advertising depicts couples "savoring nature instead of conquering it." Nature Valley sales grew 19% in the Hispanic market following the more-targeted approach. Mr. Friendly added that Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Yoplait yogurt are particularly appealing to the Hispanic market.

"We're learning a lot from our marketing initiative so far, and we continue to customize our messages to drive growth with multicultural consumers," he said.

Baby boomers are also a key market for General Mills, particularly with regard to the all-important, but highly mature cereal market. Highest per-capita cereal consumption is among those aged 55 or older, particularly as these consumers look for ways to add more fiber to their diets. Fiber One, Multigrain Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios are particularly popular. General Mills also targets boomers with Progresso soups and Yoplait yogurt. What was a $600 million category in U.S. grocery is a $5 billion category today, and the aging demographic is now looking for products that have added health benefits, such as probiotics. General Mills is now courting empty nesters with single-serving versions of Green Giant vegetables and Wanchai Ferry entrees.

"We'll continue to enhance our current products and develop completely new ones to help boomers defy the calendar," Mr. Friendly said.

General Mills is also taking a more serious look at boomers' children, millennials, which it defines as those aged 16 to 33 -- all 75 million of them. "This generation is very home and family oriented," Mr. Friendly said. "They're also completely at ease with technology." He added that many of them don't remember life without PCs, ATMs or cellphones. The company is working hard to connect with this group virtually, with an iPhone app, blogging with Betty Crocker, or following Nature Valley on Twitter.

In its millennial-focused "Home is calling campaign," Pillsbury promoted a range of baking products, primarily for entertaining. Mr. Friendly said that retail sales for advertised grew 5% following the ads in late 2008. General Mills is targeting millennials at dinner with "ethnic flavors" from its Macaroni Grill, Wanchai Ferry and Old El Paso product lines. Old El Paso retail sales are up 11% year to date.

The group is also looking for minimally-processed products, so the company's Simply Cookies and Simply Go-gurt yogurt products are geared toward them. General Mills also sees Larabar, Betty Crocker brownies, Bisquick, Green Giant Steamers and the newly-launched Yoplait Greek-style yogurt as being squarely in that demo's sweet spot.

"These key consumer populations -- the multiculturals, the boomers and the millennials -- will be the drivers of our future growth," Mr. Friendly said. "We believe our broad portfolio is well positioned to meet changing consumer needs and should drive solid top line growth for our U.S. retail business."

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