General Mills is a Fortune 500 corporation, mainly concerned with food products, which is headquartered in Golden Valley, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. The company markets several well-known brands, such as Betty Crocker, Yoplait, Colombo, Totinos, Jeno's, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Old El Paso, and Cheerios. Their brand portfolio includes more than 100 leading U.S. brands and numerous category leaders around the world. On average, U.S. shoppers place at least one General Mills product into their shopping cart each time they visit the grocery store.
In 1877, the mill entered a partnership with John Crosby to form the Washburn-Crosby Company. A year later, the "A" mill exploded, killing 17 workers and also demolishing several nearby buildings. The mill was rebuilt and continued to operate for almost 90 years.
In the 1920s, the company stepped in to take over a failing Twin Cities radio station, renaming it WCCO (from Washburn-Crosby Company). General Mills itself was created in 1928 when Washburn-Crosby President James Ford Bell directed his company to merge with 26 other mills.
Beginning in 1929, General Mills products contained box top coupons, known as Betty Crocker coupons, with varying point values, which were redeemable for discounts on a variety of house wares products featured in the widely distributed Betty Crocker catalog. The coupons and the catalog were discontinued by the company in 2006, and a new website based retail concept is scheduled to open in 2007.
General Mills brought the popular radio show The Lone Ranger to broadcast in 1941. The show was then brought to television, and, after 20 years, their sponsorship came to an end in 1961.
When NASA astronaut Scott Carpenter launched into space on Aurora 7 in 1962, he was carrying with him the first solid space food – small food cubes developed by Pillsbury’s research and development department. Taking Pillsbury scientists more than a year to develop, space food cubes were followed by other space-friendly foods, such as non-crumbly cake, relish that could be served in slices, and meat that needed no refrigeration.
The first venture General Mills took into the toy industry was in 1965. The company bought Rainbow Crafts, which was the manufacturer of Play-Doh. General Mills’ purchase of the company was substantial because it brought production costs down and tripled the revenue.
Beginning in 1959, General Mills sponsored the famous Rocky and His Friends television show, which later prompted The Bullwinkle Show in 1961. Until 1968, Rocky and Bullwinkle were featured in a variety of advertisements for General Mills.
General Mills came out with their “Monster Cereals” in the 1970s. Two of the cereals, Frute Brute and Yummy Mummy, were discontinued from the “Monster Cereal” line in the 1980s.
In 1970, General Mills acquired a five-unit restaurant company called Red Lobster and expanded it nationwide. Soon, a division of General Mills titled General Mills Restaurants developed to take charge of the Red Lobster chain. In 1982, General Mills Restaurants founded a new Italian-themed restaurant chain called Olive Garden. Another themed restaurant, China Coast, was added before the entire group was spun-off to General Mills shareholders in 1995 as Darden Restaurants.
From 1976 to 1985, General Mills went to court as the parent company of Parker Brothers, which held the rights on the brand name and gaming idea of the board game Monopoly, claiming that the so called Anti-Monopoly game of an economics professor infringed their trademark. The dispute extended up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against them, saying that while they have exclusive rights to the game Monopoly, they can not prevent others from using the word "monopoly" in the name of a game. During the 1980s, General Mills sold Parker Brothers to Kenner.
In 2001, the company purchased Pillsbury, although it was officially described as a "merger." Some of the cereals had whole grain, but in late 2004, the company transitioned its entire breakfast cereal line to whole grain due to scientific research showing the positive impact eating whole grains has on one's health.
Since 2004, General Mills has been producing more products targeted to the growing ranks of health-conscious consumers. The company has chosen to switch all its cereals to whole grain. According to nutritionalists, whole grains are a much healthier choice when choosing grain products. "If whole grain becomes a marketing magnet, it could lead the way to a healthier nation," says Dr. Neal Barnard, author of Breaking the Food Seduction. The company also started manufacturing their kid-targeted cereals with less sugar.
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