2012 Power 50 - No. 35 Kendall J. Powell

Kendall J. Powell has been doing some grocery shopping.

The chairman and chief executive officer of Minneapolis-based General Mills has announced six acquisitions for the diversified food-products manufacturer during the past 18 months, including two U.S. companies specializing in all-natural food products, and a controlling interest in Yoplait International.

Powell told SN the past year and a half has been “by far the company’s most active period since the Pillsbury acquisition in 2001.”

“Our plans are designed to grow our existing businesses as well as identify attractive acquisitions to accelerate this growth,” he said.

In addition to the Yoplait deal, which was completed last July, General Mills acquired Pasta Master, a producer of chilled Italian meals, pasta and sauces based in Australia; Mountain High, an all-natural yogurt in the U.S.; Food Should Taste Good, a producer of all-natural snacks in the U.S.; Parampara’s branded range of ready-to-cook spice and sauce mixes produced in India; and Yoki, a producer in several growing food categories in Brazil, including snacks, convenient meals, basic foods (grains and beans), and seasonings.

In the recently ended fiscal year, General Mills launched more than 150 new products in its U.S. retail business alone.

“Several of our new introductions — such as Peanut Butter Multigrain Cheerios, Fiber One 90-Calorie Brownies, and Yoplait Light with Granola parfaits — are among the most successful new items in the industry in the past year,” Powell noted.

The company has more than 70 new-product launches on tap for the first half of the current fiscal year.

Sales in the recently ended fiscal year grew by 12%, to $16.7 billion.

Powell said the company is tackling the economic slowdown by focusing on investing in the long-term health of the business, as well as through its comprehensive cost-savings initiatives.

“We will continue to invest in product news and innovation that keeps our brands healthy and growing — both in the U.S. and around the world,” Powell told SN. “General Mills’ long-term focus has always been on investing in the long-term health of our business — and brand-building and innovation are a key part of that focus.”

He said he’s bullish on the CPG industry overall, with the increasing focus on meals made at home.

The company is targeting cost savings, meanwhile, through its holistic margin management (HMM) initiative.

“Our goal is to deliver consistent, high-quality sales and earnings growth in fiscal 2013,” he told SN. “We see high levels of innovation planned across our core portfolio, and we’ll have good contributions from recently acquired businesses this fiscal year.”