Aug 25, 2011 • By

An eye toward the future

Most people are paid to think. Others are paid to think outside the box.

Dom Alcocer is paid to think way, way, way outside the box.

During his six years at General Mills, Dom has been involved in some of the most innovative campaigns in the company’s history.

He started on the Pillsbury holiday cookie team.

Hmm. No holiday in August? No problem. Dom’s team came up with “Back to School Day” and created ready-to-bake cookies with little yellow school buses.

He also was part of the 2008 launch of Progresso Light soup, which rocked the soup industry by creating an entirely new segment – and resulted in sales of more than $100 million its first year.

And in 2009, he helped launch Pancake Nation, a clever website that offers advice – as well as financial assistance – to fundraisers holding pancake breakfasts.

Dom now heads up General Mills’ New Venture marketing team, a position that was created for him. As inventor, marketer and 21st century soothsayer, a large part of his job is thinking 20 years out to consumer trends of the future.

His most recent project launch was GlutenFreely.com, a website with resources to help lead a gluten-free lifestyle. The site was developed in partnership with the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research, the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center and the General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition. It serves as a one-stop shop for the gluten-free community with medical information, recipes, resource links and an online store.

Dom says he is often asked why only 30 percent of the products sold on GlutenFreely.com are General Mills products.

“Granted, GlutenFreely.com isn’t the typical, competitive way of marketing,” he says. “But our goal is to create a new solution to consumers’ needs.”

Dom’s unorthodox approach to marketing mirrors his unorthodox career path. He’s a former U.S. Air Force officer responsible for negotiating international radio frequency treaties. “I learned from the military that to get anything done, you need to make do with what you’re given,” he says. “That lesson’s stayed with me, and it’s the mentality I bring to every issue and every challenge I face.”

He’s now heading up a new venture called “Betty Crocker’s Red Spoon Squad,” a cross between the Pampered Chef and Geek Squad for your kitchen. Currently test marketed in Louisville, Ky. and Virginia Beach, Va., the venture makes use of real, live “Bettys” who hold cooking sessions in people’s homes.

The concept is still in the experimental stage, which is precisely where Dom loves to operate. “I absolutely love my job. I operate out of a garage that’s attached to a $15 billion dollar house,” he says with a grin.

Whatever the future holds, you can bet Dom Alcocer will be part of shaping General Mills’ response to it.

“At General Mills, our mission is Nourishing Lives – and all of our strategies ladder up to that mission,” he says. “The way I get there is just a little different.”

Editor’s note: Internet Retailer wrote about GlutenFreely.com and the Red Spoon Squad last week.