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Snacks & wraps – General Mills’ focus for new ANZ leadership

3rd August 2021 By Bridget O'Connell | | @foodtickernz

A new line-up at the top of General Mill’s Australasian business is ready to jump on Covid-era trends both with its current portfolio of products and potentially with new brands from the US consumer brand powerhouse.

Karen Jenkins

In the past two months, Matthew Salter has returned from Switzerland where he worked for the Minnesota-headquartered giant to take up the role of managing director for Australia and New Zealand, while Karen Jenkins has relocated back from the London office to Australia to become ANZ sales director.

Formerly based in Auckland as New Zealand managing director, Jenkins is familiar with General Mills’s New Zealand portfolio which includes Old El Paso, home baking brand Betty Crocker, Haagen Dazs ice cream and snack bars Nature Valley and Fibre One. Her return to join Salter marked a drive to accelerate growth in the group’s core brands and business down under.

“The overall way we assess whether there is a category growth opportunity is to ask is there a high level of penetration, is it on trend, do we see a longer term potential for those categories. And we look at our right to win – so what does our brand bring to those categories,” she said.

Following the lead from its North American HQ, the ANZ team has identified Mexican food – and the firm’s Old El Paso brand – as one to push.

“Mexican food household penetration in New Zealand is relatively low at 50%, and Old El Paso itself at 35%. When you look at other countries around the world penetration is a lot higher, and when it is a cuisine that consumers are open to we suggest there is upside there.”

She added that the “connectivity” that happens when groups have a Mexican meal also leans into the Covid-era trend that has resulted in “people really looking for that connection whether it is family or friends”.

The other new Covid-era development is the lunch occasion which GM is looking to expand into with Old El Paso.

“With hybrid working, people are home more during the week whereas before they might have been in an office or working somewhere else, but now there is this lunch occasion – we have seen wraps do really well out of that and we expect that to continue,” Jenkins said.

To achieve this the company, which distributes in New Zealand through DKSH, aimed to make Mexican food top of mind through advertising and consumer promotions.

The other part of the portfolio with strong potential was snacks.

“Snacking is a global trend. You look at how people are eating today, it is not just about the three meals, it is snacking throughout the day so we are continuing to invest in that space.”

This meant pushing GM’s “all-rounder” brand Nature Valley, but also its low calorie, high-fibre Fibre One as health-conscious consumers looked to shed so-called Covid kilos and demand for more functional snacks grew.

Currently, GM’s snack portfolio was mainly distributed through grocery, but Jenkins said they were looking at other channels in collaboration with DKSH which could, over time, see them go into convenience or route service.

Jenkins added that pet food was also a category of interest – tapping into the pandemic pet boom – with reference to GM’s clean pet food brand in the US, Blue Buffalo. Organics could be another opportunity with GM holding the second biggest organics brand in the US.

“We will look at what is relevant for our market, and go after those growth opportunities.”



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