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    General Mills' Innovation Network Marks First Year

    The number of innovation concepts submitted to the manufacturer has tripled.

    On the first anniversary of its Worldwide Innovation Network (G-WIN), General Mills said yesterday that its open innovation program seeking outside partnerships with entrepreneurs, inventors, universities, and other food companies has resulted in hundreds of concepts for patented technologies or potential products that could be complementary to its existing brands and businesses.

    "We are tremendously encouraged by the success and industry interest we've seen from our G-WIN open innovation program," said Peter Erickson, s.v.p. of innovation, technology and quality at Minneapolis-based General Mills. "Not only have we seen a 300 percent increase in the number of innovation concepts submitted to us since we initiated G-WIN, but we are also seeing a higher percentage of high-quality, potentially game-changing technologies with broad application across our businesses."

    As part of the initiative, the company has developed joint ventures, engaged in technology and equity licensing, sourced finished products, and worked to solve technical problems with experts applying concepts to further accelerate the General Mills' own internal innovation efforts.

    Among the products to come out of the program is the Progresso Light line of soups, the happy outcome of a cross-functional team designed to leverage research and expertise from across the company, which suggested that Progresso develop a "light" soup that could qualify for a 0 POINTS value per serving with Weight Watchers.

    "Progresso Light soup has been a tremendously successful launch for the company, and the Progresso Light brand is well on its way to achieving over $100 million in retail sales in its first year," noted Progresso Foods v.p. of marketing Jerry Lynch. "This innovation was accomplished through a highly collaborative process with our outside partners. That collaboration was a big part of the product's success."

    Additional 2007 innovation highlights include Fiber One Chewy Bars, for which General Mills teamed with an exclusive partner on a fiber ingredient; Progresso Reduced Sodium soups, created through a new proprietary partnership with an external company with expertise in healthy foods; Yoplait Go-Gurt Fizzix, a carbonated yogurt that General Mills produced after licensing a product and process patent from Brigham Young University; and the Pillsbury Cooler, a state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly mobile cooler technology created through a partnership with a refrigeration company. Additionally, General Mills' efforts helped create a new food science division within YourEncore, an innovation services company helping organizations drive innovation by making use of the expertise of retired scientists and engineers.

    In its first year, the G-WIN team at General Mills received over 200 concept submissions.

    Prospective partners can contact the G-WIN team through its online Web portal at http://www.generalmills.com/WIN or by calling 763-764-4946 (GWIN).

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