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McClatchy-Tribune  07/07/2014 4:08 PM ET
General Mills' new products stretch old brands, food trends [Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn. :: ]

July 07--General Mills unveiled its new-product lineup Monday, and the consumer themes were easy to spot.

More protein. More gluten-free. More indulgent. And bolder flavors.

The Golden Valley-based foodmaker pays keen attention to trends as it formulates products it thinks will score with consumers. Typically only a small fraction of newcomers become hits, so many of the 150 or so new General Mills products being unveiled aren't likely to be around next year.

Some of its latest offerings also push familiar brands on to new turf.

Progresso is known for soup, but it soon will be joined by Progresso Chili, sold in pouches. Totino's is best known for pizza, but that brand will be featured on a line of Pizza Chips, sold only at convenience stores.

Chex is known for dry cereal and Chex Mix, but soon the Chex name will be featured on pouches of Gluten-free Chex oatmeal. And Larabar is known for natural snack bars, but soon the brand will also be used on pouches of a grain-free, gluten-free granola called Renola.

"Everything we do starts with the consumer in mind, and in Fiscal 2015, we're applying this consumer-first mindset across our portfolio," CEO Ken Powell said in a statement.

Some trends are clear. The demand for higher-protein foods is motivating General Mills to roll out higher-protein offerings of Cheerios, Nature Valley granola and Yoplait yogurt. The boom in gluten-free items is reflected in new offerings of cookie mixes, crackers and pie-crust mix.

But sometimes, shoppers send conflicting messages. While consumers are asking for healthier options, they're also craving more indulgent flavors -- hence the new Pillsbury Melts Molten Fudge Cake filled cookie mix, as well as the new Suddenly Salad grains line featuring the ancient grain quinoa.

General Mills said that 5 percent of its U.S. retail sales last year came from new product launches, including Yoplait Greek 100, Fiber One Protein Bars and Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch.

Tom Webb can be reached at 651-228-5428. Follow him at twitter.com/TomWebbMN.

 

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