Working from the ground up
Did you know General Mills is the largest provider of natural and organic packaged foods in the U.S.?
We offer a diverse mix of certified organic cereals, yogurt, frozen fruit and vegetables, snacks, meals and baking products.
We’re committed to doing good in the world, both as a company and through our portfolio of brands. That's why we're partnering with farmers within our supply chain and in key regions where we source our ingredients to advance organic and regenerative agriculture.
Regenerative and organic agriculture can help address climate change by pulling carbon from the atmosphere into the soil and improving soil health, while building more resilient supply chains.
Building purpose-driven brands
Earlier this month, we attended Expo West, the leading trade show in the natural, organic, and healthy products industry, to share more about our commitment to organic.
"As the number one natural & organic food manufacturer, we were thrilled to be back to reinforce General Mills’ commitment to the industry,” says Priscilla Zee, business unit director, Natural and Organic, General Mills. “We highlighted our commitment to organic and regenerative agriculture, connected with N&O thought-leaders and sparked insights and ideas being surrounded by the latest trends and innovation that are leading the food industry."
Our panel, “Building Brands with Purpose at Scale” brought to life powerful examples of our journey and impact.
Panelists included General Mills employees Sidd Singhal, senior brand manager, Snacks; and Margot Conover, associate manager, Global Impact. They were joined by Lara Merriken, founder and chief creative officer, LÄRABAR; and Nate Powell-Palm, regenerative organic farmer and Annie’s supplier.
Here are some of the highlights:
Growing brands without losing purpose
Lara Merriken was on a hike when she got the inspiration for her company, LÄRABAR. She realized she wanted to create a product using simple foods and real ingredients with flavors that appealed to everybody.
“What I really wanted to do was make sure this food was available to any and all people,” said Merriken. I’m so proud to be here many years later with this incredible team of people that work on these brands and keep them evolving.”
Her advice for other entrepreneurs looking to grow their business is to keep innovating, but to never forget who you are and what you stand for.
“As a founder, in order to innovate, you have to try things. Not everything's going to work, but the key is to remember what your roots are about, what’s important to you.”
Innovating in service of your purpose
Sidd Singhal shared an example of when EPIC Provisions strayed away from its brand purpose and what he learned from the experience.
“EPIC has such a clear and bold mission. We exist to create animal-based products that not only treat those animals well but improve human health and heal the land,” Singhal said. “The mission was so powerful, it allowed us to travel to different categories."
But things became challenging when the team started to chase trends that ultimately didn’t last in the market.
“Sometimes we see a new trend and we want to chase that trend... but you can’t just innovate to follow the trend and delight your fans, you have to innovate to reach more people...and sometimes we forget that.”
So, the team had to pivot and find a way to innovate that stayed true to the mission but also reached more people.
"When you’re leading these brands, you have to think about the mission and the purpose. Sometimes we think innovation is our purpose. But I think innovation should be in service of your purpose.”
Bringing purpose to life through partnerships
Margot Conover talked about how Cascadian Farm has leveraged its partnerships to help make a positive impact on the planet and the people it serves.
“Innovation is in the brand’s heritage, and that’s really been the throughline through everything Cascadian Farm has done since then (the 1970s),” said Conover.
The brand partnered with The Land Institute to develop and commercialize its latest innovation – Kernza®, a climate-smart perennial grain for Cascadian Farm Cereal.
“We’ve been very excited about its possibility for helping move away from conventional annual crops toward crops that are more friendly to the soil that help us be in harmony with the ecosystem and farm in a way that will be durable for many, many generations to come.”
The partnership with The Land Institute and the farmers and scientists who helped make Kernza® a reality is a great example of how purpose and innovation can be connected.
“Through our partnerships and collaborations, we can really heal our relationship with the earth,” she said.
The grower’s perspective
Nate Powell-Palm didn’t come from a farming family, so he had to start his journey from scratch.
“I knew I needed to find an alternative to the conventional, mainstream model,” he said. “Organic is a different deal for farmers, it’s a different take on how we treat the land. And it’s ultimately a different relationship between every member of the supply chain.”
Powell-Palm was involved in the innovation of using yellow peas to make Annie’s regenerative mac and cheese. By using yellow peas, farmers were able to complete their crop rotation.
“Everybody won. The planet, the farmer, the consumer, the business. Everyone got something out of this innovation where we thought about, ‘how do we make this a little bit better?’"
But getting the product to market wasn’t easy.
“I was always blown away that General Mills was willing to work directly with farmers. They’ve got incredible scale,” he said. “Setting up a supply chain was an innovation in and of itself. This launch wasn’t just trying to fit the mold that already existed, but it was innovating at every level.”
Seeing a regenerative future
Our booth at Expo West showcased what a regenerative future can look like, including immersive sounds and visual greenery, and highlighted our commitment and progress.
Here's a taste of what they tried:
Annie’s Cheesy Pizza Pasta is made with organic pasta and contains 1/3 cup of hidden vegetables per serving (the pasta recipe includes peas!).
Annie’s Ice Cream Shop Fruit Snacks are made with organic ingredients, are vegan and gluten free, and will turn any school lunch into bunny snack-packed fun.
Both products are now available nationwide.
Cascadian Farm Chocolate Drizzle Bars are the first from General Mills in the natural and organic space to be made in a peanut-free facility. This new bar will be available widely in June.
Our Kernza® Cereal, made from a perennial grain that can help reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, was recently launched at Whole Foods.
EPIC's Beef Barbacoa-Inspired Bars are made with 100% grass-fed beef raised with practices to reduce carbon emissions.
This is the industry’s first bar to bear The Savory Institute's Land to Market Ecological Outcome Verification (EOV) Seal, underscoring EPIC’s commitment to advancing regenerative farming practices.
The seal illustrates that the beef in this product was raised using regenerative farming practices that improve soil health, biodiversity and ecosystem function.
Available exclusively at Whole Foods and at EpicProvisions.com.
LÄRABAR’s new Double Chocolate Truffle Bar offers indulgence made with whole food ingredients including cashews and fair-trade chocolate. This product will be available nationwide in June.
This is the first of three new sweet treat truffle flavors, inspired by chocolate flavors. Chocolate Peanut Caramel Truffle and Chocolate Raspberry Truffle LÄRABAR are launching nationally this summer.