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March 19, 2020

General Mills' Plants at Full Tilt, With Needs Changing Constantly


Minn. Star-Tribune: "General Mills raised its outlook for the year on Wednesday as it races to keep up with demand for cereals, soups and other products that spiked in recent weeks as Americans holed up in their homes due to the coronavirus. The company said they have been in closer contact with U.S. retailers than ever before, with its plants running at full capacity as Americans stockpile food and household goods. General Mills is staffing a 24/7 operation it calls a “control tower” with workers looking across all of its global businesses, watching demand levels and making sure it matches where and how much of certain product lines it has running across its manufacturing facilities. “Maybe you’ve seen photos of empty store shelves. But food continues to flow. We continue to make it. Stores continue to stock,” said CEO Jeff Harmening. “The change in consumer behavior are the likes of which we have never seen.” But what was true last week, isn’t true this week, he added, making it difficult to forecast demand. Sales of shelf-stable foods like cereal, soup and baking flour surged last week. But this week, sales are up across all its categories, including perishable items like yogurt. That likely reflects restaurant and school closures and a growing number of adults working from home. “These sales can’t yet be measured in Nielsen, but it’s fundamentally different from what we saw a week ago,” Harmening told the Star Tribune. “The situation is evolving so rapidly, we don’t know the depth and we don’t know the duration.” The company’s U.S. retail sales were up in the double digits last week and “many times” more that this week. To protect its production levels and ward off COVID-19 outbreaks at its plants, General Mills has made changes to its sick policy to encourage workers to stay home if unwell"... The company has already seen big sales increases in China--which accounts for 4% of its sales--due to the virus.

Minn. Star-Tribune 

 
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