2012 Shareholders Meeting
Today marked General Mills’ 84th annual shareholders meeting here in our hometown of Minneapolis.
Before the meeting, our shareholders sampled an array of new products from General Mills – including new cereals like Apple Cinnamon Chex and Cascadian Farm Ancient Grains granola, new Yoplait and Liberte yogurt products, new Fiber One Chewy granola bars, and more.
When the meeting began, Chairman and CEO Ken Powell said fiscal 2012 was a challenging year for food manufacturers due to record levels of input cost inflation. But while the rate of commodity cost inflation is coming down, he said consumer confidence has not yet turned the corner, as spending in the U.S. and in other developed markets remains muted. However, there are signs of improvement.
Today, a higher percentage of meals are made at home – or carried from home – than at any time during the last decade. So demand for packaged food products remains high.
“We see business trends improving across our U.S. retail categories,” said Ken. “The food categories where we compete offer taste, convenience, nutrition and value for consumers.”
Ken also discussed delivering value to shareholders today. Return to General Mills shareholders through stock price appreciation and dividends totaled 3 percent in fiscal 2012.
General Mills shareholder dividends have shown steady growth in recent years. And this past June, the company increased the annual rate another 8 percent — marking 114 years of dividends without reduction or interruption.
“We think our focus on balanced growth has served General Mills and our shareholders well,” Ken noted. “Over the past five years, our stock price appreciation plus dividends has increased at a 9 percent compound rate, well outperforming the broader market and our peer group. That’s a record we plan to extend in the years ahead.”
Each year at the shareholders meeting, Ken pays tribute to the some company’s talented employees — Champions Award winners who have made particularly notable contributions to our results in the past year. The following teams were commended today for their accomplishments:
Fiber One Brownies Launch
Fiber One Brownies turned out to be the company’s single biggest launch in grain snacks history. These high-fiber, 90-calorie brownies were introduced last summer and in their first year, just two flavors generated more than $100 million in retail sales – significantly exceeding the industry standard of $15 million for a successful new product introduction.
This award winner saw an opportunity to make a difference in his fellow veterans’ lives. After reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about an organization that provides mentoring and career counseling for post- 9/11 veterans, finance employee Jeff Marone set a goal to develop a sponsorship program at General Mills.
To gain the sponsorship through American Corporate Partners, a nationwide non-profit veterans organization, he had to raise $50,000 and secure 50 volunteers as mentors.
He received half the funding from the General Mills Foundation and then reached out to many of our corporate leaders to secure the remaining half. After that, he spread the word across General Mills to sign up 50 employee volunteers as mentors.
He landed his 50th volunteer in March and since then, the program has been fully implemented across the company, providing counseling and advice to help veterans transition from the armed services to the civilian workplace. Jeff’s next goal is expand this program to other companies here in the Twin Cities.
Haagen-Dazs Secret Sensations
This team enhanced Haagen-Dazs’ reputation as a super-premium, indulgent treat with the launch of Secret Sensations. Developed in Europe, these ice cream cups with liquid centers accounted for 6 percent of our Haagen-Dazs sales in the region in 2012, and represent our biggest new product introduction across all of our businesses in Europe.
This team leveraged patented technology to retool an existing production line to reduce capital expenditures and minimize production down time. Secret Sensations won ice cream flavor of the year in Spain and Belgium, and we plan to introduce it into more markets around the world, making this a truly global innovation.
Nature Valley Protein Bars
For the past three years, the Nature Valley team has delivered double-digit growth in reported net sales with a three year compound growth rate of 15 percent. This team achieved these results through focused product innovation and a highly effective marketing plan.
In January of this year, they built on this track record with the introduction of Nature Valley Protein bars. These bars contain 10 grams of protein per serving and already have captured a 3 percent dollar share of the grain snacks category.