Functional overdrive: General Mills woos hearts, minds and stomachs

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: General mills, Heart, Compound annual growth rate

Fighting the flab: Gen Mills seeks new approaches to weight management
Fighting the flab: Gen Mills seeks new approaches to weight management
General Mills has signaled its intention to make a bold move into the functional foods market with new products targeting cardiovascular health, cognitive function and weight management.

In a series of briefs posted on its open innovation platform G-WIN​, the firm says it is looking for solutions enabling it to develop new products that boost satiety, enhance cognitive functions and lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Ingredients suppliers or other potential partners are invited to respond with fully-fledged solutions by June 17.

Battling the bulge

The weight management brief invites suppliers to focus specifically on novel ingredients or technologies that increase satiety, reduce absorbed calories or increase energy expenditure and are suitable for use in ready-to-eat cereals.

Solutions must have ‘demonstrated efficacy in a food system’, clean-label status, and regulatory approval for use in food “currently or in the foreseeable future​”, stresses the firm.

Winning hearts and minds

The brain food brief invites suppliers to pitch novel ingredients, plant extracts or technologies for “enhanced cognitive function”​ suitable for use in ambient products with a shelf-life of at least nine months.

General Mills is “not interested in omega-3 solutions​”, and expects solutions proven to reduce stress or increase awareness, alertness, reasoning or ‘mental energy’ without significantly alter the flavor profile of foods to which they are added.

The cardiovascular brief – also targeting ambient products with a nine-month shelf-life - calls for “technologies or ingredients that help lower one or more heart disease risk factors”.

Solutions, not ideas

Critically, General Mills was not looking for ideas, but fully formed answers to the questions it was posing backed by IP and regulatory approval, explained Kamel Chida, connected innovation senior manager at a recent conference on open innovation. “We are not looking for ideas. We are looking for solutions.”

While many consumer products companies have embraced the principles of open innovation, General Mills was the first to publish detailed lists of technical problems it is trying to solve on the web.

This was based on a recognition that success rests on well-grounded and well-articulated business needs, rather than woolly requests for great ideas, which typically generated woolly pitches, added Chida.

Functional foods: The size of the prize

Datamonitor predicts that cognitive health foods in the US market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.8 percent from 2009 to 2014, rising from $1.198bn to $2.095bn.

This compares with a CAGR of 4.8 percent for heart health products, which are estimated to be worth $7.08bn in 2014.

As for the market opportunity for mood and relaxation foods, market researchers were less clear about the size of the prize, Bob McNabb, business director at the Natural Marketing Institute told at the SupplySide East show earlier this month.

“Stress keeps coming up in surveys of 30-somethings but I don’t think the food industry has worked out whether there is a market opportunity here or not beyond ‘calming’ teas and the like, as consumers can do a lot of things to relax or improve their mood that don’t involve food. It's far easier to make a connection between low energy levels and energy foods and drinks."

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1 comment

Calming Foods

Posted by Judith Wurtman,

General Mills already has a variety of foods that calm, focus, energize and decrease stress. They are called carbohydrates as in cereal. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that accomplishes all this and carbohydrate-rich, protein -poor foods result in serotonin synthesis. But alas breakfast cereal doesn't have the novelty of a new herb or fruit extract so they will probably not notice that the solution is on their shelves right now.

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