Sep 09, 2011 • By

The origins of research at General Mills

Research is a big part of the history – and the present – at General Mills.

Today we’re taking a look back at how that tradition got started.

Our first formal research effort, as the Washburn Crosby Company in 1893, consisted of a small, dark area in a testing room.

Five years later, James Ford Bell persuaded company officials to invest in a scientific program. But space was hard to come by, so the company rented two rooms over a Minneapolis saloon near the former Flour Exchange Building.

An unlikely place, for sure, but it was there that Bell launched what was probably the first truly scientific research program in the milling industry.

By 1905, Bell’s laboratory was recognized as one of the nation’s leading authorities on milling issues.

A full-scale research organization for General Mills took off in 1930 with the establishment of a new, one and a half story building in Minneapolis. The key objectives for the staff were to improve established products, develop new products and conduct scientific research related to increasing efficiency in production.

It paid off.

In 1930, research teams developed “Embo,” a stabilized wheat germ that contained a rich supply of B vitamins. In 1933, they came up with “Ferm-A-Sured” flour, a product controlled to bake uniformly. A year later, General Mills launched into the vitamin business by introducing a new method of manufacturing vitamin D.

Our research labs expanded and by 1950 they occupied most of a city block in Minneapolis.

On May 31, 1961, our current facility – the James Ford Bell Research Center – opened in Golden Valley, Minn., shown here in 1975.