Main areas of strength
• General Mills ranks third on the U.S. Index Product Profile with score of 5.2 out of 10.
• General Mills’ non-commercial public health and nutrition programs are based on a clear strategy and plan. The company focuses, among other topics, on increasing food availability, variety and quality in the United States. Its approach entails strategic initiatives, grant-making, food donations and knowledge sharing.
• General Mills' U.S. Health Metric Criteria, applied for formulating/reformulating, is based on requirements as defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA).
• General Mills has a relatively strong policy on responsible marketing to children and pledges to follow the two main sets of industry self-regulation commitments by being a Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) member and supporting the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) Guidelines, administered by the U.S. Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB). It has adopted the best practice of not marketing in elementary or middle and high schools.
• General Mills is one of the high-ranking companies on nutrition labeling by committing to provide nutrition information through the industry-developed Facts Up Front system on Front-Of-Pack (FOP) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) SmartLabel online system in the U.S. market. In addition, the company website features product nutrition information for all General Mills’ U.S. products.
Priority areas for improvement
• General Mills ranks sixth on the U.S. Index Corporate Profile with a score of 2.8 out of 10.
• The company was estimated in the Product Profile to generate 19% of 2016 sales from healthy products (having a Health Star Rating (HSR) of 3.5 or more) and 6% from products that meet World Health Organization (WHO) Euro criteria for marketing to children. The company does not publicly disclose the percentage of healthy products it offers or sells in the United States. It should improve its transparency and step up its product reformulation, new product development and/or make acquisitions to improve the healthiness of its U.S. product portfolio.
• Overall, the company’s disclosure and transparency regarding nutrition-related policies, practices and performance, as these apply to the United States, are limited. The company should disclose more information publicly.
• General Mills only reports retrospectively on the percentage of products that have met certain nutrition criteria (Health Metric). The company should publish comprehensive and forward-looking reformulation targets covering its entire U.S. portfolio. It should also adopt a robust Nutrition Profiling System (NPS) to guide its product innovation and reformulation activities.
• General Mills manufactures products for federal food assistance programs. To strengthen its performance, the company could publish more information about its commercial approach to addressing food insecurity and diet-related diseases, with a particular reference to priority populations in the United States, whose access to healthy food is constrained by low income or geographic factors.
• The company makes a broad commitment to address accessibility and affordability of healthy products in the United States. However, evidence of a strategic commercial approach to address this was not provided. The company should extend its commitments, performance and public disclosure in this area.
• To address concerns about ‘copy-cat’ products, General Mills should ensure that all products sold under the Smart Snacks in School regulation meet the same nutrition standards everywhere, including those products that are sold through other channels with a similar ‘look and feel’. In terms of consumer education programs, the company should exclude brand-level sponsorship and commit to funding public health and nutrition programs that are underpinned by a sound evidence base, designed with expert advice and that draw on stakeholder inputs.