Train with Gold Medal Flour sign on the front

Our history

Bringing good to the world since 1866.
In this section:

A force for good

Our legacy of innovation

General Mills has a trailblazing history of making food with passion, pioneering many firsts and treating the world with care.

For over a century and a half, we’ve created and invented, served and connected — while having fun along the way.

From a single flour mill to over 100 brands in 100 countries, the General Mills story is one of people, passion and purpose.

The early days as The Big Mill

In its first days, before General Mills existed as a company, it was a flour mill, perched on the banks of the Mississippi River — the lifeblood of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Built by Cadwallader Washburn, the Washburn “B” Mill was not only the largest mill west of the Mississippi but west of Buffalo, New York. The company was so successful that an even larger Washburn "A" Mill was built to keep up with demand.

Washburn-Crosby flour brands went on to become a top-selling flour in the U.S., winning the gold, silver and bronze medals for quality in 1880. The highest quality flour was renamed Gold Medal.

On June 20, 1928, then Washburn-Crosby President James Ford Bell merged the flour mill with four other mills, and General Mills was born.

Highlights:

  • 1866: Cadwallader Washburn built his first mill in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which would become the foundation of General Mills
  • 1878: Following the explosion of the Washburn “A” Mill in Minneapolis, Washburn revolutionizes the industry with a renewed commitment to safety and quality
  • 1928: General Mills becomes an official company

General Mills through the decades

Despite The Great Depression and WWII, General Mills flourished, thanks to its commitment to keep delivering something new. Wheaties was born, followed by Bisquick, Kix, Cheerios, Betty Crocker, and an out-of-the-box investment: sponsoring radio shows.

This relentless drive for innovation propelled General Mills into many new territories over the years: aeronautical research, the toy industry, restaurants, clothing and apparel, games, and more.

Highlights:

  • 1921: Betty Crocker, the first lady of food, is created as a personality to answer letters from consumers
  • 1926: The Wheaties Quartet debuts what’s believed to be the first singing radio commercial
  • 1931: Bisquick is developed and quickly becomes an American household pantry staple
  • 1941: Cheerioats launches, which is changed to Cheerios in 1945
  • 1953: The Black Box for airplanes is developed in partnership with the University of Minnesota
  • 1965: The Pillsbury Doughboy makes his first commercial debut
  • 1970: General Mills first ventured into the restaurant industry with the purchase of Red Lobster in 1970
  • 1977: General Mills acquired the license to produce Yoplait.
  • 1983: The Pillsbury Company bought Häagen-Dazs, which has since gone on to become an international hit

Still foodies after all these years

On October 31, 2001, General Mills acquired Pillsbury, which marked the most significant event in the company’s history since its founding.

Though the merger marked a new beginning, one thing has remained unchanged after all these years: the food. Through 150 years of challenges, successes and new ventures, General Mills has put passion and purpose into making food the world loves.

Highlights:

  • 2001: General Mills acquires The Pillsbury Company to create one of the world’s largest food companies
  • 2018: Blue Buffalo joins the General Mills family, marking a new chapter as the leader in the Wholesome Natural pet food category
  • Today: The General Mills family is made up of over 100 brands, in 100 countries, on six continents.
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