by Marion Nestle
Feb 19 2010

General Mills’ creative marketing plan

For reasons that make no sense to me at all, corporations are not allowed to simply make a profit.  Their profits must constantly increase.  They must report growth in profits to Wall Street every 90 days.

For food companies, this is not so easy.  We already have twice as many calories available in the food supply as needed by our population –  nearly 4,000 calories per capita per day.  How to deal with this?  Find new buyers.

General Mills says its “recipe for profitable growth” will target three specific groups: Hispanics, aging baby boomers (those aged 55 and over), and millennials (baby boomers’ kids aged 16-33).  General Mills owns cereals and fruit roll-ups, among other such products.

According to, General Mills is now the leading advertiser in U.S. Hispanic media.

But General Mills expects most of its growth to come from emerging markets like China.  Sales in China tripled from 2005 to 2009 and are expect to reach $900 million by 2015. Sales of General Mills’ Häagen-Dazs* ice cream are booming in China.

Isn’t it fun to be a target of General Mills’ growth strategies?  I assume all major food companies have their eyes on the same target.

*Factoid footnote: Nestlé owns Häagen-Dazs in the U.S. and Canada.  General Mills owns the brand everywhere else, including in China.

  • I´m no fan of food corporations in general either, but just because a company uses the euphemism “profitable growth” in a press release doesn’t mean they have a master plan for achieving universal obesity. Profits are a function of sales growth, increased efficiencies, price increases, cost cuts–or a combination of any or all of those factors. It doesn´t have to be solely from force-feeding people more food. Just keeping you from veering into paranoia, Marion. 🙂

    Casual Kitchen

  • DennisP

    It’s a curious facet of our competitive western culture that “good enough” simply isn’t good enough in the business world. Firms always want to get bigger and more profitable, managers get more prestige from managing larger firms. Wall Street demands that earning projections always be growing from one quarter to the next.

    Yes, there are some firms – almost always privately owned – that seem to be content with making profits and not chasing the idea of growth at the rainbow’s end. But publicly owned companies are forced by their investors to keep earnings up, to earn a high rate of return. Thus the impulse to chase new markets. Firms do not deliberately intend to make people obese, but the chase for profits has that as a strong, unintended consequence.

  • MA

    I agree with Marion – why isn’t simply making a profit enough, why does there have to be growth in profits? It’s really sad that – intended or not – growth in profits for food companies = growth in waistlines + growth in healthcare costs for people. It would be really nice to subtract the growth out of that equation.

  • Subvert

    This is the sick side of the food industry… The fact that all food companies want is to create another “occasion” to eat, or get “just one more purchase” from a consumer every day, week, month, etc.

    Imagine food company executives and a few share holders sitting in a B*rger King, Mc*onalds, or Kentu@ky Filth Chicken, cheering and truly enjoying themselves as an unhealthy, obese customer as walks in the door and purchases a #3 with large fries..!?

    To think that these executives haven’t a conscience or any decency to look at what they are really doing when they launch their ‘marketing initiatives’ to push their garbage onto susceptible portions of society.

    I guess it’s all OK in Corporate America, where we can turn a buck and a blind eye to just about anything…

  • Anthro


    ” Profits are a function of sales growth, increased efficiencies, price increases, cost cuts–or a combination of any or all of those factors.”

    Sales Growth – that means selling MORE crap to more people.

    Increased Efficiencies – that means making the crap more efficiently (so that you can sell more of it to more people in order to increase profit)

    Price Increases – that means you raise the price of the crap you figured out how to make more efficiently

    Cost Cuts – that means you lower the price to make the crap more attractive to a wider audience.

    I’m not convinced that your points are evidence of anything other than the need to constantly increase profits that Marion is concerned about. Hardly paranoia.

    It is for this reason that I do not own any stocks or mutual funds. You can’t complain and then earn dividends off of such practices.

  • It is called greed!
    More is never enough. The obvious conclusion is the complete destruction of the planet.
    We are promoting only those that worship money to control all of our food.
    Isn’t about time we allow people that actually care about people and not money to take control of our food supply?

  • Just like our health care system, The US is the only country in the world that allows someone to profit from disease or to go bankrupt from surviving it.

  • Marion – Thanks for your post. I have a friend who is writing on food advertising to Hispanic kids. I’ll be sure to forward this article on to her. This is always a topic of interest on my blog, too: .

  • If I had it my way, I would get rid of every company that made food that helped people gain weight and had no nutritional value at all. For example, all cereals, including General Mills products, are laced with high fructose corn syrup.

    All the buzz about the horrors of high fructose corn syrup are true. Fructose, in the body, is metabolized through the liver, which encourages diabetes and weight gain. Although regular sugar is metabolized throughout the body and can turn into fat pockets (like cellulite) it is not as bad as a substance that doesn’t tell your body to metabolize anything. This is what fructose does, so sad. And marketing it is in a long line of things that America could do without… in a perfect world.

  • @Anthro
    It’s your right (and over the past decade it’s also been your privilege) not to own stocks or mutual funds. And I commend you for being intellectually consistent. But what suggestions and solutions would you offer? Complaining isn’t the answer.

    Casual Kitchen