Jun 02, 2011 • By

The Häagen-Dazs experience

“It’s too good to be true,” we thought as we planned a trip to Paris and London to tour Häagen-Dazs ice cream shops with FORTUNE contributor David A. Kaplan.

We would, of course, be required to eat Häagen-Dazs ice cream creations for five straight days: Häagen-Dazs fondue, Belgian Waffle Dream, or perhaps the Brownie Explosion. Our Häagen-Dazs cafes around the world are not like traditional ice cream parlors – they are a true experience: Sit-down cafes with 10-plus page menus featuring ice cream creations, scoops, ice cream drinks, brownies, cookies, and more.

And we were actually getting paid to do this. Not a bad gig!

The resulting article, “General Mills’ Global Sweet Spot” appears in the current issue of FORTUNE.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of hard work goes into telling a story like this – planning itineraries, executive interviews, fact finding, fact checking, but it was an amazing opportunity for us with FORTUNE. I’d like to share some of the highlights.

Our first stop in Paris was during a warm, sunny week this past April. My colleague Maerenn Jepsen and I had the opportunity to meet General Mills’ leadership in France and learn a great deal about our business there as they told their story to FORTUNE. In addition to Häagen-Dazs, General Mills brands in France include Géant Vert (Green Giant) and Old El Paso. Mexican food is becoming increasingly popular in Western Europe.

The highlight of Paris was the time we spent with FORTUNE and our General Mills France team in an interview outside on the sidewalk terrace of the Häagen-Dazs shop on the Champs-Elysees. We enjoyed an amazing limited edition Häagen-Dazs iceberg ice cream cake, while the sidewalk café bustled around us on a warm Paris evening. It was the true Häagen-Dazs experience.

Our Häagen-Dazs flagship shop in London is in Leicester Square, the heart of London’s theater district. Early on a Saturday evening, there was already a wait for tables. My discovery there was “Affogato,” a scoop of vanilla ice cream drenched with a shot of espresso … delightful! And during the time spent with our leaders in the U.K., we had the opportunity to learn more about General Mills brands there, including Häagen-Dazs , Old El Paso, Jus-Rol, Nature Valley and Betty Crocker.

The highlight of London was a visit to Royal Albert Hall, a beautiful historical concert hall near Kensington Palace that holds 350 events each year. Häagen-Dazs is sold to patrons attending events there, whether it’s a classical concert, a rock concert or the opera – Häagen-Dazs mini cups are always on the menu. I hope to attend an event there on my next visit to London.

Shortly after returning from this trip, I took a family vacation to Cancun and was eager to have them experience Häagen-Dazs as I had. We enjoyed Häagen-Dazs fondue together one evening at our shop in the Kukulcán Plaza.

Many know General Mills for our cereals and our products in the United States, but our international segment is our fastest growing business, and Häagen-Dazs is our biggest global brand.

Be sure to look for a Häagen-Dazs cafe on your next international trip!

Editor’s note: The FORTUNE article includes a behind the scenes time-lapse video of how they built a Häagen-Dazs ice cream Eiffel Tower. Check it out!