General Mills sees double digit growth in Victoria as COVID-19 bites

As Australian states and territories experience different stages of COVID-19 lockdowns, consumer needs have also fluctuated.

General Mills has been at the centre of COVID-19 changes, first experiencing the increased demand of stockpiling at the beginning of the pandemic in April and now navigating the different needs around Australia as states and territories head to a “COVID normal”.

Victoria’s continued lockdown has seen General Mills experience stable growth in Victoria, up 17 per cent on last year, compared to the company’s national figure of 14 per cent for the 21 weeks ending 2 August 2020.

However, in Queensland and New South Wales, where COVID-19 restrictions have eased, General Mills has seen sales settle closer to business as usual levels.

General Mills Managing Director Peter Everett said the top priority for General Mills is to support the community through whatever stage they’re in.

“What we’ve noticed in Victoria is continued growth across our home-cooked meal brands, such as Old El Paso and Latina Fresh, as restaurants and cafes remain closed to in-house dining and more Victorians cook at home,” Mr Everett said.

“At General Mills, we’re always trying to find ways to help our customers which has led us to create the Old El Paso Tortilla Pockets as a “mess-free” way for families to enjoy Old El Paso and give parents one less thing to worry about as the restrictions continue.”

“As the country transitions to a COVID normal, General Mills will continue to adapt to the different challenges that might develop to meet our customers changing needs,” Mr Everett said.

While product mix and meeting demand are important for General Mills, they believe food companies have a responsibility to give back and ensure all members of society can enjoy the basic necessity of food, particularly in the current context.

They have demonstrated this through their recent announcement of a model that is unique to Foodbank Australia, with General Mills’ Rooty Hill plant in Western Sydney producing on average 10,000 dedicated meals of Latina ™ Fresh ricotta and spinach agnolotti each month, for the next year, for people in need.

“We take our responsibility to help Australia through this pandemic seriously, which can be seen across our product offering and through our partnership with Foodbank Australia,” Mr Everett said.

This comes as the General Mills Foundation has granted a further $100,000 USD (Approx. $137,500 AUD) to Foodbank Australia to help respond to the significant increase in community need for food staples due to the pandemic.

Partnership takes insecurity out of the ‘surprise’ chain

Foodbank Australia’s ongoing partnership with General Mills Australia is rethinking how companies can contribute and take some of the insecurity out of the food donation ‘surprise’ supply chain.

In a model that is unique to Foodbank Australia, General Mills’ Rooty Hill plant in Western Sydney will produce on average 10,000 dedicated meals of Latina ™ Fresh ricotta and spinach agnolotti each month, for the next year, for people in need.

Foodbank Australia Chief Executive Officer, Brianna Casey, said with the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 being felt right across the country, the value of this new partnership is immeasurable.

“With one in five Australians already having faced food insecurity at some point last year, widespread unemployment and an economic recession have hit hard and fast for families everywhere. People are doing it tough right now and it’s partnerships like this Collaborative Supply Program that enable us to plan ahead and make every dollar go further.”

“General Mills are taking the proactive step to guarantee access to delicious, nutritious pasta for Australians who are struggling to put food on the table right now and for the year ahead, and we couldn’t be more grateful,” said Ms Casey.

Foodbank Australia’s General Manager – National Supply Chain, Michael Davidson, added, “This model allows us to move beyond important, but unpredictable products diverted from
landfill to a constant supply of basic essentials like this premium pasta product from General Mills.”

“We’ve seen this model operate to great success with other pantry staples and are excited to see this further extension of our partnership with General Mills come to life.”

“As a world-leader in this field, and the only foodbank globally to be driving a collaborative supply program with food and grocery industry partners, this really sets the standard for other manufacturers and foodbank organisations. It will have a tremendous impact on ensuring we can provide to those in need,” said Davidson.

The program is a collaboration between Foodbank Australia, General Mills and its supply chain. While General Mills donates the time and labour to make the product, suppliers have generously donated the raw ingredients and packaging to dramatically reduce the cost.

Ferraro Dairy Foods, based in Tullamarine, is supplying the ricotta for the pasta filling. Ferraro Dairy Foods General Manager Brad Ferraro said it was important to help Foodbank during this difficult time.

“At Ferraro Dairy, we are always prepared to help families and people in whatever way we can. That’s why it’s great to be involved with this initiative and support people who are hurting in multiple ways.” said Ferraro.

General Mills Australia Managing Director Peter Everett has called on industry peers to engage in similar partnerships to ensure a bigger impact on the community.

“We’ve created a template which people and companies can follow using resources and networks they already have to make an even greater difference,” Mr Everett said.

“It’s taken a huge effort from our staff putting this together and while it’s tough for our suppliers to make this donation due to COVID-19, we think it’s the perfect time to make that difference and be a force for good given the impact it will achieve at this critical time.”

“The chosen product, chilled, premium Latina™ Fresh Ricotta and Spinach Agnolotti, takes all of a family’s needs into consideration, being a great source of protein and quick and easy to make for a family meal,” said Mr Everett.

In addition to product donation, General Mills, through its Foundation, provided Foodbank Australia with a charitable grant of over AU$200,000 (US$ 150,000) to help Foodbank respond to the significant increase in community need for food staples due to the pandemic.

With COVID-19 causing new demographic groups to access food relief for the first time, it’s more important than ever to support the community.

Partnership designed to take insecurity out of supply chain

Foodbank Australia’s ongoing partnership with General Mills Australia is rethinking how companies can contribute and take some of the insecurity out of the food donation ‘surprise’ supply chain.

In a model that is unique to Foodbank Australia, General Mills’ Rooty Hill plant in Western Sydney will produce on average 10,000 dedicated meals of Latina Fresh ricotta and spinach agnolotti each month, for the next year, for people in need.

Foodbank Australia chief executive officer, Brianna Casey, said with the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 being felt right across the country, the value of this new partnership is immeasurable.

“With one in five Australians already having faced food insecurity at some point last year, widespread unemployment and an economic recession have hit hard and fast for families everywhere. People are doing it tough right now and it’s partnerships like this Collaborative Supply Program that enable us to plan ahead and make every dollar go further,” she said

“General Mills are taking the proactive step to guarantee access to delicious, nutritious pasta for Australians who are struggling to put food on the table right now and for the year ahead, and we couldn’t be more grateful,” said Casey.

Foodbank Australia’s general manager – national supply chain, Michael Davidson, added, “This model allows us to move beyond important, but unpredictable products diverted from landfill to a constant supply of basic essentials like this premium pasta product from General Mills.

“We’ve seen this model operate to great success with other pantry staples and are excited to see this further extension of our partnership with General Mills come to life.”

“As the only…foodbank globally to be driving a collaborative supply program with food and grocery industry partners, this really sets the standard for other manufacturers and foodbank organisations. It will have a tremendous impact on ensuring we can provide to those in need,” said Davidson.

The program is a collaboration between Foodbank Australia, General Mills and its supply chain. While General Mills donates the time and labour to make the product, suppliers have generously donated the raw ingredients and packaging to dramatically reduce the cost.

General Mills Australia managing director Peter Everett has called on industry peers to engage in similar partnerships to ensure a bigger impact on the community.

“We’ve created a template which people and companies can follow using resources and networks they already have to make an even greater difference,” Everett said.

“It’s taken a huge effort from our staff putting this together and while it’s tough for our suppliers to make this donation due to COVID-19, we think it’s the perfect time to make that difference and be a force for good given the impact it will achieve at this critical time.”

In addition to product donation, General Mills, through its Foundation, provided Foodbank Australia with a charitable grant of over AU$200,000 (US$ 150,000) to help Foodbank respond to the significant increase in community need for food staples due to the pandemic.

With COVID-19 causing new demographic groups to access food relief for the first time, it’s more important than ever to support the community.

General Mills ups ante to keep supply chain maintained

General Mills Australia is maintaining its local and global supply chain networks for much loved food products their customers need. By collaborating with suppliers, partners and customers, General Mills has been able to respond to increased customer demand caused by pantry-stocking, ensuring supply for both the short and long term.

General Mills Australia supply chain director Michele Canepa said the top priority for General Mills is the health and safety of staff and the broader community.

“It is imperative we provide a steady and reliable food supply for our customers which is why our supply chain will continue to work tirelessly to ensure our brands remain well-stocked in supermarkets,” Canepa said. “We thank our customers for their collaborative approach and support with understanding consumer demand and are extremely grateful to our factories, logistics partners and suppliers for truly stepping up. The responsiveness to this unprecedented spike in demand has been outstanding from everyone in the supply chain.

“Where possible, our employees are working from home. Our Rooty Hill plant, making Latina Fresh pasta and Old El Paso Mexican products, continues to operate following strict guidelines with all employees practicing good hygiene and social distancing, as outlined by the Australian and New South Wales authorities.”

To support its production employees who are safely running the Rooty Hill plant at full capacity, General Mills Australia has taken several additional actions including:

  • Introducing a daily bonus for plant employees to recognise their additional efforts.
  • Implementing flexible work schedules to support employees with childcare arrangements.
  • Additional paid leave for employees in quarantine or where there is a potential medical risk.
  • Implementing temperature checks on entry so employees remain safe.
  • Implementing social distancing protocols where it’s encouraged to use different spaces—like personal vehicles or conference rooms—for breaks rather than community areas.
  • Adjusting furniture and workstations to increase distance between people.
  • Finding opportunities to transition in-person meetings to virtual communications.

A taskforce within General Mills is closely monitoring international developments and instituting mitigation strategies for the enterprise related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We will continue to closely monitor the advice of the World Health Organisation and Australia’s Chief Medical Officer to support our staff and provide the latest health advice,” Canepa said.