Jul 27, 2011 • By

Oui, we do business in France

On a global scale, France has emerged as an innovation powerhouse and a highly attractive business partner.

The country’s skilled workforce and large industrial base has helped bolster its ranking as the world’s fifth-largest economy. Last year alone, more than 650,000 new French companies were launched with help from web-based technology – a testament to the country’s resurgent dedication to entrepreneurism and online ingenuity.

These impressive details emerged at a half-day symposium in Minneapolis, “Doing Business with France.” The event was sponsored by the Minnesota International Center, a nonpartisan organization – made up of business and political leaders – that encourages the exchange of global business practices that foster economic growth.

France’s ambassador to the U.S., François Delattre, spoke at the event. General Mills Chairman and CEO Ken Powell served as a panelist, along with the French-born president and CEO of Minnetonka-based Carlson, Hubert Joly.

Powell credited France’s dynamic economy, as well as its culture, with making it a prime global business partner.

Calling international business, “the opportunity of our time,” Powell pointed out that General Mills has a long history of doing business in France. And while 10 years ago, 5 percent of our sales were outside the U.S., international business now accounts for more than 25 percent of company revenue.

After five decades, we now have more than 2,000 employees in the country in France.

French connections for General Mills include our flagship Häagen-Dazs production facility and major packaging facilities for Green Giant (Géant Vert) vegetables. We produce and export Häagen-Dazs ice cream around the world from our flagship production facility in Arras. Géant Vert vegetables have been sold in France since 1960, and French consumers see the iconic “Géant Vert” as a French brand.

General Mills markets a variety of other brands in France, including Old El Paso Mexican foods, and Cereal Partners Worldwide cereals. We also operate a foodservice business, which sells General Mills products to hotels, restaurants and schools.

General Mills’ presence and investment in France will expand dramatically with the recent acquisition of a 51 percent controlling interest in Yoplait S.A.S. and a 50 percent interest in the related entity that holds the Yoplait brands — bringing 1,400 additional employees.

Our goal is to continue to build and grow our business and our presence in France – and this acquisition was a very big step toward that goal.

The future is here. Vive la France!

Editor’s note: The photos were taken by Craig Bares.