General Mills invests in food science to boost innovation

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: General mills, Innovation

General Mills is to help set up a new Food Science division, which
will draw on the expertise of retired scientists and engineers to
fuel innovation within the firm - and in the food industry in
general.

The initiative, which comes in the form of a sponsorship, marks the next step in a partnership between the food giant and YourEncore, an innovation services company. The new division in YourEncore will recruit scientists and engineers with focused expertise, which will allow for the formation of expert teams to fuel innovation across the food industry, said General Mills in a statement. YourEncore, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, claims to help companies accelerate innovation by leveraging the expertise of retired scientists and engineers. The service works on a membership-by-invitation basis, which secures a confidential business environment. Other firms that collaborate with YourEncore include Procter & Gamble and National Starch. Potential projects stemming from the new Food Science division include new product commercialization, product innovation and technical problem solving. "General Mills' Worldwide Innovation Network (WIN), our open innovation initiative, has proven to be a key resource and growth accelerator for the company,"​ said Peter Erickson, General Mills senior vice president of innovation, technology and quality. "Central to our ongoing strategy is the expansion of our network of external resources that can contribute to our innovation efforts, and tapping experiencedfood industry experts through YourEncore will certainly fulfill that objective."​As part of the expanded partnership between General Mills and YourEncore, General Mills will provide senior technical leadership support and industry insight to the YourEncore organization to help develop the new Food Science capabilities. The firm has also made an undisclosed financial investment in YourEncore. In an e-mail to FoodNavigator-USA.com, General Mills WIN marketing manager Julie Ennis stated "we have been working with YourEncore for over a year and have had great success using their existing network of experts to help solve technical challenges.""This announcement reflects the expansion of that partnership to develop the new Food Science division, which will add additional resources with more focused food industry background to the network. The addition of these resources will only enhance and expand the opportunities we have to tap the YourEncore network to work on technical challenges." ​ The move by the cereal and snack food giant is another indication of its commitment to innovation - a term becoming increasingly crucial to the success strategies of food companies in a highly competitive and demanding market. Through its WIN program, General Mills is also looking to partner with small firms or inventors to bring new products and technologies to its business. When it launched the program in April this year, the firm had said "a focus on open innovation has been a critical competitive advantage for General Mills. We believe the next big advance, which may reshape the food industry, has already been invented by someone outside the company, and our goal is to be the first to find it." ​Previous innovation success through collaboration with external partners includes the company's Yoplait brand. Licensed from Sodima, a French dairy cooperative in 1978, Yoplait is now a $1bn business and the yogurt category leader. The company also said that joint ventures have helped it build strong business. In 1990, General Mills and Nestlé created a joint venture called Cereal Partners Worldwide, which now claims to be the global No 2 player in cereal.

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