Key development: Converting entire Big G cereal line to whole grain.
What's next: Launch of 89 new items.
Steve Sanger once worked as a dishwasher and laundry pick-up and delivery person -- positions that taught him any job can be fun if you enjoy your co-workers.
"That's equally true whether you are a dishwasher or CEO," Sanger told SN. "The people I work with at General Mills are what make my job great."
Sanger may be relying on such team spirit to help guide General Mills through continued commodity and input cost pressures.
The Minneapolis-based marketer of Cheerios, Wheaties and other popular cereal brands announced last month that fourth-quarter revenue slipped 2.5% to $2.72 billion. The company's Big G cereal volume decreased as a result of price increases to offset increased commodity and energy costs.
Along with focusing sales and marketing on the issue, General Mills has taken other steps to boost cereal sales, most notably converting its entire Big G cereal line to whole grain. Big G cereals now have at least 8 grams of whole grain per serving.
Sanger said the move could be the "biggest single health-related product improvement in the history of the cereal category."
The company has also addressed volume decreases in its bakeries and food-service business, Sanger said.
"Now stabilized, we have a new base to renew growth," Sanger said.
In other positive news, General Mills said last month that the Securities and Exchange Commission ended its investigation of its sales practices and related accounting without taking enforcement action.
Meanwhile, the company's focus on product development has led to an array of new products, many of which boast powerful health claims. Among them: Healthy Heart from Yoplait Yogurt with plant sterols, which can reduce heart disease risk in a diet low in saturated fat; and Yoplait Smoothies with fiber, calcium and vitamins A and D.
Looking ahead, the company plans to introduce 89 new products. Citing the aging of baby boomers and focus on weight management, Sanger said there's a tremendous demand for good-tasting, better-for-you products.
"There's never been a better time than today for food innovation that delivers health and nutrition benefits," he said.