Jul 02, 2018 • By

Where big appetites for food and ideas convene

There’s something about being in mountains that brings out the Big Thinker in all of us.

For us, that was the Aspen Ideas Festival, from June 21-30, where we fed minds and tummies alike.

For our Aspen Ideas Festival debut, we brought as many snacks as we could pack from Annie’s, Cascadian Farm, Cheerios, Chex, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Epic, LÄRABAR, Nature Valley and Yoplait.

The mood of the Aspen-ites? Curious.

The feelings toward our General Mills Market and food? Love.

Many festival attendees stopped by our booth to hear about our efforts in sustainability and philanthropy, and enjoyed making their own trail mixes from bulk bins (who knew Chocolate Chex tasted so good with Annie’s Bunny Grahams?).

Yoplait’s new yogurt, YQ, was a special hit, topped with Nature Valley Oats & Honey and Cascadian Farm Lemon Blueberry granolas.


Luckily, the bears stayed away …


But we journeyed here to do more than feed festival-goers. We had a ton of big ideas to contribute as well.

Here’s a quick snapshot of where we showed up:

Ideas on sustainability

With nearly 10 billion people on earth by 2050, we’ll need a 70 percent increase in food production to feed everyone. John Church, our chief supply chain officer (Audio), joined Robyn O’Brien, the AllergyKids Foundation, Chef Michel Nischan, Wholesome Wave, and Kathleen McLaughlin, senior vice president and chief sustainability officer, Walmart, for a conversation on how to implement smarter, more sustainable practices in growing, distributing and discarding food to keep future generations nourished.



“There’s just as much water on earth now as in its beginning – it’s just in all the wrong places. If we can develop a way for the soil to hold carbon using regenerative agriculture, we can hopefully help with that and pull greenhouse gases out of the air. We think this will be positive from a climate change standpoint.” – John Church, executive vice president, chief supply chain officer and Global Business Solutions, General Mills.

Ideas on leadership

Jeff Harmening, chairman and CEO of General Mills, talked about the role we can all play in advancing women’s leadership. He also joined a discussion on what it’s like to be a CEO for a company that walks the talk when it comes to our values – beyond the bottom line. In a separate discussion about the shifting public role of CEOs in the 21st century, Mary Lynn Carver, chief communications officer, weighed the benefits and risks of speaking out about controversial topics.


“The hardest thing about being a CEO is figuring out when to speak out. For me it’s not about having a voice just to have a voice, but having a voice to make a difference.” – Jeff Harmening, chairman and CEO, General Mills.



“You need to first look internally to see if you have any credibility to weigh in on issue X, Y or Z,” Mary Lynn Carver, chief communications officer, General Mills.

Ideas on entrepreneurship and collaboration

John Haugen, general manager and vice president of 301 INC at General Mills, explained the importance of the Minnesota potluck question during the opening event of the festival, exploring where ideas come from. (Haugen also wrote about that, on LinkedIn).


“At 301 INC, we like to conduct business in a relational rather than transactional way. We try to give more than we get by mentoring, and not just investing. For us, it’s all about the potluck question, ‘What can I bring?’” – John Haugen, general manager and vice president of 301 INC at General Mills.


Ideas to enjoy the Great Outdoors

Nature Valley hosted early morning bird-watching hikes through the mountains with local naturalist Rebecca Weiss from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.


A group of festival-goers listens to and spots a mountain chickadee.

Ideas for giving back

The General Mills Feeding Better Futures Scholars winner, Katie Stagliano, joined Mary Jane (Melendez) Laird, the executive director of the General Mills Foundation, to discuss feeding local communities in need.

Aspen Ideas Festival attendees also learned about, and had a chance to donate to, our Feeding Better Futures semifinalists’ 501(c)(3) organizations using wooden General Mills “tokens.”



Ideas about young people

Carla Vernón, president of our Natural and Organic operating unit, joined our Chief Human Resources Officer, Jacqueline Williams-Roll, to host a private dinner on Generation Z, and what makes young people tick in business, politics and culture.

We loved Aspen!

We left Aspen full with snacks, but with an unsatiated appetite for more ideas – and more action – to help feed a better future.