Sep 26, 2011 • By

Innovating to Nourish Lives

Today Peter Erickson, General Mills’ senior vice president of Innovation, Technology and Quality, discussed his vision to build a truly global R&D community at the company’s annual Shareholders Meeting in Minneapolis.

In his remarks, Peter described how General Mills’ approach to innovation will deliver “tremendous innovation across our new and established products globally” and provided highlights of his strategy to fulfill this commitment to shareholders and consumers.

Here are the three things I took away from Peter’s remarks:

General Mills is boosting its global R&D presence.

While the company’s research efforts started humbly in Minneapolis in the late 1890s, today the company has 1,200 R&D employees and R&D capabilities in more than 20 locations worldwide, including the recently opened CPW Innovation Center in Orbe, Switzerland. Peter talks about our commitment to innovation in this audio clip.

Quality is more important than quantity.

Peter measures success by judging how well his teams are doing at developing “differentiated” products – in other words, does the new product bring new users to the category, is the product being used for a different type of meal or snack, or is the product expanding one of our brands globally?

Improving or “renovating” our established products is equally as important as new product innovation.

Peter explained that a significant portion of the company’s product renovation is focused on improving the health profile of our brands –either by adding benefits, such as calcium, or reducing limiters, such as sodium. For example, in 2010 the company announced that we would trim sodium by 20 percent across our biggest categories by 2015. So far, we’ve made double digit percentage declines in sodium levels for nearly 200 products. I asked Peter to explain the importance of established product renovation in this video interview.

Peter also spoke about Partners in Food Solutions – a General Mills founded nonprofit that brings together food expertise, knowledge and resources to nourish lives in Africa.

To listen to Peter’s entire presentation from the 2011 Annual Shareholders Meeting, visit