Towards the end of the call, Sanford Bernstein’s Alexia Howard said: “There’s been quite a few legislative and retailer-led developments in response to increasing consumer concerns about GM foods [in the US]. Are you seeing any impact? And then if you are, then what steps are you taking to address those?”
He responded: “On GMOs, obviously we’re aware of what’s going on there and the traffic in social media. Again, we’re not seeing an impact on our business…
“So obviously that’s something that’s out there, but we don’t see it really affecting our business.”
Much of the call was taken up with General Mills’ innovation pipeline, with new launches planned including new Fiber One protein bars; Nature Valley soft baked oatmeal squares and Greek yogurt protein bars; frozen Old El Paso Mexican entrees and the revamped Yoplait Greek range.
Recent launches including new Green Giant vegetable snack chips, and LARABAR’s ALT pea-protein-packed bars had also performed very well, he said.
BFast: ‘Sales should be highly incremental to our RTE cereal business’
Asked about BFast, the new liquid breakfast to go product, he said: “People drink beverages at breakfast, and they are interested in convenience. And so we just see an opportunity there, and are simply capitalizing on it. It’s too soon to say how big it is, but we clearly think it’s interesting.”
Asked if it would cannibalize ready-to-eat (RTE) cereal sales, he said: “In terms of where it might get its volume from, it’s probably everything from fruit and yogurt and coffee, you name it. But we simply see it as a good opportunity on its own.”
Chief financial officer Don Mulligan said: “The only thing I would add on BFast is historically consumption for cereal has been teenagers and younger and 45-50 and older, and there’s the breakfast skippers in the middle.
“And that’s really what we’re going after a BFast. So we’ve seen, in the testing that we have done so far, this to be highly incremental to our RTE cereal business.”
RTE cereals: ‘We gave up a bit of ground in 2013’
Overall, said Powell, “After an extended period of sales and market share gains for our U.S. cereal business, we gave up a bit of ground in 2013.
“Category sales also declined modestly for the year. But in 2014, we’re bringing a stronger new product lineup, and stronger advertising to the cereal aisle, and we expect to generate annual sales growth for Big G.”
Added Mulligan: “In US retail, net sales grew 1% to $10.6bn. Sales for our Big G cereals, frozen food, and Yoplait declined for the year, while baking products, snacks, meals, and small plant food divisions posted sales gains.
“For our bakeries and food service segment, net sales declined slightly in 2013, while 2013 net sales for our international business segment grew 24% to reach $5.2bn.”
Click here to read about General Mill's new Yoplait Greek offering.
Click here to read more about the RTE cereals segment of Gen Mills' portfolio on our sister site Bakeryandsnacks.