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What is the History of General Mills?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 12 July 2014
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General Mills, known as GIS on the New York Stock Exchange, is one of the most recognizable and famous companies in the world. It posts annual sales of around $13 billion US Dollars (USD), and it has a formidable foothold in markets all over the world, with a constant eye towards expansion in the developing world. This Minneapolis, Minnesota-based company had humble beginnings, like many corporate powerhouses found across the United States.

The start of General Mills occurred in the 1860s, when Cadwallader Washburne purchased a flour mill in Minnesota, and started developing better milling techniques to produce flour of a higher quality. Washburne ended up merging his operations with those of John Crosby, another flour miller, and by the 1880s, they were winning awards for their flour, and acquiring additional flour mills to expand their business. In 1928, the Washburne Crosby Company merged with a number of regional mills to create General Mills.

This company may have started in flour, but it quickly expanded its offerings. In addition to producing flour, the company has long been famous for its involvement in baked goods, cereals, and packaged foods which are ready to eat. In the 1960s and 1970s, General Mills also briefly diversified into retail clothing, toys and games, and restaurants, although the company later divested these holdings in the 1980s and 1990s to focus on food service.

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General Mills is second only to Kellogg's in the cereal market, and it owns a number of notable brands including Green Giant®, Cheerios®, Gold Medal Flour®, Progresso®, and Pillsbury®. The company has long been a pioneer in the realm of packaged foods and baking mixes, and it continually releases new inventions. In the 1990s, General Mills was one of the first companies to recognize the growing health food craze, and it responded by rolling out numerous lines of healthy products. The company also jumped onto the green business bandwagon early, promoting itself as a “corporate good citizen” interested in protecting the environment.

The company belongs to the Fortune 500, and it is well known as a good place to work, with excellent benefits and policies which promote the hiring of women and minorities. Numerous engineering breakthroughs in the world of food service and mass production of food have been made in General Mills labs, suggesting that the company's liberal hiring policies have worked to its benefit. The company is also famous as the inventor of Betty Crocker®, a fictional character introduced in 1921. Today, Betty and the line of products branded with her name is well known in the United States and abroad.

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StarJo
Post 4

Betty Crocker started in 1921? Wow! I had no idea she was that old!

I’ve been buying Betty Crocker cake mix and frosting for as long as I can remember. I had no idea that my great-grandparents may have been doing the same thing before I was born!

I hate making frosting and cakes from scratch, so for my relatives’ birthdays, I always buy Betty Crocker stuff. I’ve even bought the brownie mix before when I was feeling lazy.

That’s pretty cool that the brand has lasted this long! General Mills must be doing something right.

Perdido
Post 3

@OeKc05 - I still have several of my old General Mills toys from the eighties. Did you know that Play-Doh was made by them? I had a lot of Play-Doh as a kid.

Also, they made Nerf balls, those soft, squishy balls that would not hurt anyone if you hit them with them. Those were great, because I could not break anyone’s window with them!

A really popular board game called Monopoly was made by General Mills, as well. I never liked it, because it lasted for hours and my attention span was not that long, but many people adore it.

OeKc05
Post 2

The name “General Mills” certainly is appropriate. It’s not every day that you see the same company name on a package of cereal as you do on your toys, but this company has done everything in “general!”

I did not know that they no longer had holdings on their other products, though. That’s kind of sad.

I do recall seeing the brand logo on several toys and games as a kid, but I cannot remember which ones they were. Can anybody help me out here? I’m feeling nostalgic, but I’m missing a few pieces!

Oceana
Post 1

I didn’t know that General Mills made Cheerios and Pillsbury products! I buy those every week, and I never once noticed that they were both owned by a name other than their own.

Considering all the different kinds of Cheerios alone, General Mills has got to be unbelievably successful. I have bought more than one kind in one week, and I know that many other people do the same.

I buy Pillsbury cinnamon rolls, biscuits, and cookie dough. I probably contribute a good deal to this company’s success!

There is not a grocery store in America where you can’t find at least one of General Mills’ products. Now, that’s good publicity.

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