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Jul 13, 2011 • By

Global food trends shape company plans

At today’s General Mills Investor Day event in Boston, Gayle Fuguitt, vice president of Consumer Insights, discussed key consumer trends and the relevancy of these trends as the company shapes its innovation and brand building strategies.

Gayle first put the trends into context by talking about “the new normal” for consumers in both developed and emerging markets.

She said that in developed markets, the challenging economic environment has led to a permanent shift in consumers’ mindset. Gayle said that today’s “new normal” mom knows that there’s nothing worse than throwing away food the family won’t eat. So they search for value that fits their values, such as health, convenience, great taste and variety to make life more interesting in a penny pinching world.

She noted that one reaction to this permanent shift has been that many people are tired of being frugal – which she expertly called “frugality fatigue.” Consumers are looking for affordable food luxuries that don’t break their budget but provide new experiences or conveniences that are a good value. For example, a consumer may buy a Yoplait Smoothie kit or a Wanchai Ferry restaurant-quality meal to prepare at home rather than paying to go out to dinner.

Gayle explained that the emerging market consumer is changing as well, but in different ways. Household incomes are rising in countries such as China and India, and as they do, many consumers desire branded packaged goods for the convenience, status and quality they provide.

In addition to studying the way economic factors impact consumer behavior, General Mills also studies how the behaviors and habits of specific consumer groups create opportunities for our business. She explained that four consumer segments – the millennial generation, baby boomers, U.S. multicultural consumers and new consumers in emerging markets – will be the key drivers of the company’s growth.

Millennials

Two-thirds of millennials say they enjoy spending time in the kitchen preparing meals, and millennials are significantly more likely to try new foods, flavors, and recipes than the general population. Gayle explained that General Mills meets the needs of millennials through products that deliver great food experiences, by expanding our brands and flavors into new markets, and by providing cooking solutions on websites such as BettyCrocker.com, EatBetterAmerica.com and mobile applications such as the Betty Crocker iPad app.

Baby Boomers

For boomers, health benefits significantly outweigh the importance of convenience. Within boomers, younger boomers view themselves as managers who take a proactive approach to health and enjoy cooking and seeking out healthy meal options and exploring new foods. Older boomers tend to make food choices in reaction to their existing health conditions, such as heart health or weight management, and are more loyal to brands and foods they know and trust, such as Cheerios and Green Giant vegetables.

U.S. Multicultural Consumers

The third focus segment is U.S. multicultural consumers, particularly Hispanics. Over the past decade, Hispanics were the fastest-growing ethnic group in the U.S., and nearly 60 percent of Hispanic households have children. “With a greater percentage of Hispanic moms entering the workforce, convenient meal solutions that still deliver the traditional taste of homemade are a key need,” said Gayle. And in order to communicate about the benefits and convenience General Mills brands offer, the company has learned that personalized outreach, such as the company’s Que Rica Vida initiative, is extremely important.

Consumers in Emerging Markets

Middle-class consumers in emerging markets are a huge area of growth for General Mills and our peers, as 95 percent of the world’s population growth will come from emerging markets in the next 10 years. “As incomes expand, commute times grow and more people enter the workforce, convenience will take on greater importance,” Gayle said. The company’s five global platforms of ready-to-eat cereals, super-premium ice cream, convenience meals, wholesome snacking, and yogurt appeal to the changing tastes of this rapidly growing consumer base.

Editor’s note: To listen to Gayle Fuguitt’s entire presentation, check out the full Investor Day webcast on GeneralMills.com. You also can see the live tweets from all of the Investor Day presentations, with the hashtag #InvestorGIS.

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