General Mills will accelerate its commitment to more than double the organic acreage from which it sources ingredients, thereby meeting its goal of 250,000 acres by 2019.
The increased acreage is directly linked to the company’s goals to grow net sales from its natural and organic products.
In February at the Consumer Analysts Group of New York conference, Jeff Harmening, General Mills executive VP and COO for US Retail, said the company expects to reach US$1 billion in net sales from natural and organic products by 2019, a full year ahead of its previous target.
Since 2009, General Mills has increased the organic acreage it supports by 120% and is reportedly now among the top five organic ingredient purchasers – and the second largest buyer of organic fruits and vegetables – in the North American packaged food sector.
“To achieve the growth we anticipate for our natural and organic brands, we will need a more robust pipeline of organic growers,” said John Church, executive VP, General Mills Supply Chain.
“We’re building strategic relationships directly with farmers for our products and are dedicated to working with growers to optimize production and quality, adopt standard practices and accelerate supply.”
General Mills has made sizeable investments to meet growing consumer interest in natural and organic foods, which is expected to drive double-digit industry sales growth over the next five years.
Since 2000, General Mills has acquired a portfolio of natural and organic brands that totaled US$675 million dollars in pro forma net sales in Fiscal Year 2015, ranking it the third largest natural and organic food maker in the US.
The portfolio includes Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, LÄRABAR, Liberté, Mountain High, Food Should Taste Good, Immaculate Baking, and Annie’s. In January, the company acquired meat snacks maker EPIC Provisions.
General Mills has already taken significant steps to help secure a pipeline of organic ingredients.
In the US, it supports the Organic Farming Research Foundation’s efforts to encourage widespread adoption of organic farming practices through research, advocacy and education.
In Canada, the company has made a $50,000 investment to support the Prairie Organic Grain Initiative (POGI), whose mission is to increase both quantity and quality of organic field crops grown in Canada.
POGI is addressing the shortage of organic grain growers by helping conventional growers make the transition to organic farming.