General Mills and Annie’s – A six month update
About six months ago we announced that General Mills was acquiring our business. That news sent waves through our industry as various groups and individuals grappled with “Are they selling out?”, “What does it all mean for the industry?” and “What will happen to Annie’s culture and brand?” We saw very negative reactions from some consumers in our social channels, something we certainly expected, but nevertheless was disheartening to see.
Now that we are six months in, I thought it appropriate to summarize what we are seeing and doing at Annie’s, as I think it will help answer some of those early questions.
As I said many times in the weeks following the announcement, I believed that combining with General Mills at this time was exactly what we needed to do in order to continue living up to the powerful words in our mission:
To cultivate a healthier, happier world by spreading goodness through nourishing foods, honest words and conduct that is considerate and forever kind to the planet.
Our business was founded in 1989 to make a difference and to have an impact. Beyond reaching millions of households with better-for-you products, one of our biggest impacts over the years has been the influence we have had on the broader food industry, highlighting burgeoning consumer demand for certified organic, and for products free of artificial flavors, colors, and other synthetic ingredients.
In order for us to continue to reach many more families with organic foods, and to drive change within the industry, we need to get bigger and to broaden the reach of our brand to millions more households. Combining with General Mills gives us that unique opportunity.
In the six months since the transaction was announced, and in all our work with the General Mills team in Minneapolis, we have seen the following:
*General Mills has complete respect for Annie’s mission, our core values, and the ingredient promise that Annie’s was founded on more than 25 years ago. Families can still expect the same great-tasting products they love and we will continue use simple, organic, non-GMO ingredients. The integrity of our products is intact and will not change.
*General Mills is highly committed to organic, is investing to build this business, and recently stated their intention to grow the current organic brand platform of approximately $600 million, to over $1 billion by 2020. They are not just committed to growing it, but to growing it right.
*Our combination with General Mills is giving us the opportunity to have far greater influence on the broader food industry: getting organic food in more homes across the country, expanding organic acres and farms, and increasing the social impact of our work. This is good for families, farmers and the planet we share. As we look at the likely growth trajectory of our business over the next few years, we will need a lot more organic product, sourced from people and places we trust.
*Annie’s stance on GMO ingredients has not changed. We remain committed to transparency and support mandatory GMO labeling. Our differences are being respected, and General Mills is listening to our feedback on this issue and many others that relate to key issues in the natural and organic products industry.
*We believe we will have the opportunity to extend and leverage our impact to make General Mills better on a wide range of topics including commitment to organic and sustainable agriculture to embedding environmental sustainability more deeply into the fabric of the business and brands.
*We are committed to the health and success of the natural channel, and we will continue to innovate, invest, and adapt our offerings with the core intent to “keep natural cool.” We’ll let our innovation and development strategies speak for themselves over time.
*We are working on a wide range of exciting new products and product platforms that will come to market over the next few months and years. Many of these would never have been possible were it not for Annie’s access to the resources and significant business capabilities of General Mills. In each of these projects, Annie’s strict requirements for formulation, our tough ingredient standards, and our transparent brand communication are being honored without hesitation.
*Our company headquarters remain in Berkeley, supporting our unique culture and the people that are making it happen here every day.
It’s been a busy six months, and the next six months will no doubt be more of the same. The headline thus far is that we are not at all diluting what Annie’s has come to stand for over the past 25 years.
We are significantly deepening and amplifying the impact of our business mission.
In closing, I’m very confident of two things: (1) The positive impact that Annie’s will have upon General Mills is significantly underestimated, and (2) In the years ahead, General Mills will be much more successful in this space than most people think.
I understand and expect that many will watch us critically, and I don’t blame them. I always ask people to listen to what we say, but more importantly, watch what we do – we will not let you down.
Editor’s note: This post from John originally appeared on LinkedIn.
Subscribe to “A Taste of General Mills” by email – here – and we’ll notify you about our latest posts.