General Mills’ Worldwide Innovation Network Brings Hundreds of New Concepts to Company in First Year
By searching around the globe, General Mills formed partnerships that drove breakthrough innovation this year
Marking the one-year anniversary of its Worldwide Innovation Network (G-WIN), General Mills said today that the company’s open innovation initiative seeking outside partnerships with entrepreneurs, inventors, universities and other food companies has generated hundreds of concepts for patented technologies or potential products that could be complementary to its existing brands and businesses.
“We are tremendously encouraged by the success and industry interest we’ve seen from our G-WIN open innovation program" said Peter Erickson, senior vice president of Innovation, Technology and Quality at General Mills. “Not only have we seen a 300 percent increase in the number of innovation concepts submitted to us since we initiated G-WIN, but we are also seeing a higher percentage of high-quality, potentially game-changing technologies with broad application across our businesses.”
General Mills’ concept of applied open innovation has generated a wide spectrum of collaboration opportunities, everything from applying technologies more effectively to partnering more closely with key suppliers to finding potential new partners in entirely different industries. General Mills has developed joint ventures, engaged in technology and equity licensing, sourced finished products, and worked to solve technical problems with experts applying concepts to further accelerate the company’s own internal innovation efforts.
Innovation in all of its many forms is a key driver of General Mills’ growth. Progresso Light®, for example, is one of the innovations resulting from the G-WIN program, and illustrates General Mills’ efforts to solicit and foster new methods of innovation and collaboration.
To generate big ideas for new consumer solutions in the area of weight management, General Mills created a cross-functional team to leverage research and expertise from across the company. Among other ideas, the team suggested that Progresso develop a “light” soup that could qualify for a 0 POINTS® value per serving with Weight Watchers®. Progresso tested the idea, developed the product, and then leveraged the General Mills’ strategic sourcing team to create an external partnership. In collaboration with Weight Watchers®, General Mills then launched Progresso Light, the first consumer packaged product in any grocery category to carry the Weight Watchers® endorsement with 0 POINTS value per serving.
The results are impressive. All five flavors of Progresso Light deliver just 60 calories, with 4 grams of fiber and a full serving of vegetables per serving, and all five quickly moved into the “top 20” of the best-selling products in the ready-to-serve soup category.
“Progresso Light soup has been a tremendously successful launch for the company, and the Progresso Light brand is well on its way to achieving over $100 million in retail sales in its first year,” said Jerry Lynch, vice president of marketing for Progresso Foods. “This innovation was accomplished through a highly collaborative process with our outside partners. That collaboration was a big part of the product’s success.”
Year in Review: G-WIN Success Stories
In its first year, the G-WIN team at General Mills received more than 200 concept submissions. Because of its efforts to drive open innovation, the G-WIN team was able to generate major new product introductions, as well as important technology advancements and key industry partnerships. Additional 2007 innovation highlights include:
* Fiber One® Chewy Bars: General Mills teamed with an exclusive partner on a fiber ingredient to develop a delicious snack bar with 9 grams of fiber per bar. Fiber One Chewy Bars have far exceeded performance expectations. Within months of the product launch, Fiber One bars were among the top 10 best-selling grain bars on the market.
* Progresso® Reduced Sodium soups: Through a new proprietary partnership with an external company with considerable expertise in healthy foods, General Mills was able to source a great-tasting new lower-sodium ingredient for its Progresso Reduced Sodium soups. The new reduced-sodium soups are performing very well, and are also bringing new consumers to the brand. Fifty percent of sales for lower-sodium Progresso soups introduced in 2007 came from consumers who weren’t previously buying Progresso. In the first year on the market, sales of Progresso Reduced Sodium soups ranked in the top third of the ready-to-serve soup category. Based on this success, additional soup flavors were added to the line later in 2007.
General Mills also facilitated the launch of Yoplait Go-Gurt Fizzix™, a first-of-its-kind carbonated yogurt that General Mills produced after licensing a product and process patent from Brigham Young University, and the Pillsbury Cooler, a state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly mobile cooler technology created through a partnership with a refrigeration company. In addition, General Mills’ efforts helped create a new food science division within YourEncore, an innovation services company helping organizations accelerate innovation by leveraging the expertise of retired scientists and engineers.
G-WIN evaluates potential partnerships based on several criteria, including “the fit” for a particular brand or product line, uniqueness, and expansion or growth potential. Prospective partners are encouraged to contact the G-WIN team through the team’s online Web Portal, or by calling 763-764-4946 (GWIN).
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