News Releases

Feb 10, 2016

General Mills celebrates 150 Years of innovation, invention, food and fun


General Mills commits to a future of making food people love

first share certificate washburn crosby company

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota - General Mills announces its 150th birthday today with plans for a year-long celebration. To celebrate its impact on a century and a half of food around the world, General Mills will share and highlight nostalgic food memorabilia from its historical archives. And honoring its journey of developing leading brands, life-changing inventions and cultural icons, General Mills is pledging “a future of continued innovation – and striving to help make its communities and the world a better place.”

“Ours is a rich history,” said Ken Powell, chairman and chief executive of General Mills. “Morning, noon and night, for 150 years, General Mills has served the world by making food people love. Today we proudly bring quality foods and leading brands to people in 130 countries around the world – and we’re especially excited about all we will do in our next 150 years.”

“General Mills is a part of Americana,” says Tom Forsythe, chief communications officer for General Mills. “We invented the Nerf ball, built the ‘Black Box,’ and along the way we’ve touched people’s lives with our iconic brands.”

General Mills will not only celebrate its past, but will also be looking ahead to the future throughout the year. “We’re going to continue meeting consumers’ changing needs through innovation and determination,” Powell explains, “and we’re going to continue to work to make our communities and the world a better place.”

general mills 150 inforgraphic

Our history

General Mills traces its roots to 1866, when Cadwallader C. Washburn built single mill on the banks of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Through hard work and determination, Washburn’s mill grew into a multi-billion dollar company and one of the largest food companies in the world.

Over its 150 years, General Mills has woven part of the fabric of American culture, including:

Life-changing innovations and inventions – 

  • Dr. Howard Bauman, a Pillsbury food scientist, developed the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system that remains the gold standard of ensuring food safety in processing facilities around the world.

  • General Mills’ mechanical division teamed with University of Minnesota professor James Ryan to create the Ryan flight recorder, also known as the “Black Box.” The invention changed the face of aviation, and a version of the Ryan recorder flies today in every global commercial aircraft. General Mills also created and built the small deep-dive submarine ALVIN, that made the first-ever dives to the Titanic.

  • Advertising “Firsts” – General Mills created what is believed to be the first singing radio commercial for Wheaties in 1926, and sponsored the first televised commercial sports broadcast in 1939. Bisquick created and sponsored one of the first radio “soap opera,” Betty and Bob. General Mills also owned or sponsored popular shows like The Lone Ranger, Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy and The Bullwinkle Show.

  • Leading Brands – Beginning with Gold Medal Flour, General Mills created many of the world’s most recognizable and beloved food brands. Its iconic brands include Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Cheerios, Wheaties, Yoplait, Nature Valley, Old El Paso and more. Its international brands include Häagen-Dazs, Wanchai Ferry, Yoki, Green Giant, Latina, and Frescarini, among others. General Mills also created many iconic brand characters, including the Pillsbury Doughboy, Betty Crocker, the Green Giant, BuzzBee, the Trix Rabbit and Lucky the Leprechaun.

  • Call to Service – During World War I, the company supported relief missions, providing food to war-ravaged Europe. In World War II, General Mills built precision targeting technologies, including the jitterbug torpedo, as well as producing foods for the Army’s K rations and C rations. In the 1960s, Pillsbury provided NASA astronauts with space foods, leading to the launch of Space Food Sticks. In 1954, the company created the General Mills Foundation, through which it fueled more than $2billion dollars in support to nonprofit organizations

  • Beyond Food – General Mills was also a leading manufacturer of toys, with Kenner, Parker Brothers, Play-Doh and Lionel Trains. It invented the Nerf ball, Care Bears and Paint-by-Number; marketed Spirograph, Monopoly, Risk, Clue and Stretch Armstrong; and gave the world the Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven. Beyond toys, the company developed O-Cel-O Sponges; operated clothing brands such as Eddie Bauer, Foot-Joy, Talbots, Izod and Lacoste; and made furniture such as Dunbar and Pennsylvania House. It was also a major restaurateur with Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Burger King and more.

  • Natural and Organic – General Mills entered the natural and organic market in 2000, acquiring Small Planet Foods which included Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen. It also added LÄRABAR, Liberté, Mountain High, Food Should Taste Good, Immaculate Baking and most recently, Annie’s.

General Mills today

General Mills is one of the world’s top ten food companies. Dedicated to putting consumers first, General Mills continues to innovate around the world to meet changing consumer needs. In the U.S., General Mills is removing artificial flavors and colors from artificial sources from all of its Big G cereals.

It is also a leader in sustainable business practices, with industry-leading commitments on climate change, and a pledge to sustainably source 100 percent of its top 10 ingredients by the year 2020.

The future

General Mills’ strategies for “the next big thing” include partnering with emerging food brands and entrepreneurs to create new and on-trend breakthrough foods through the company’s new business development and venturing unit, 301 Inc., providing knowledge, expertise and access to capital.

“What’s exciting is all that we will do in the future,” Powell adds. “The past is prologue. The future is what we’re about. We’re going to continue our strong focus on sustainability and advocate for food security, because food is essential to life.”


Jessica Barrutia

Mike Siemienas
General Mills
General Mills media line

About General Mills

One of the world’s leading food companies, General Mills operates in more than 100 countries around the world. Its brands include Cheerios, Fiber One, Häagen-Dazs, Nature Valley, Yoplait, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Old El Paso, Wanchai Ferry, Yoki and more. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn., USA, General Mills had fiscal 2015 worldwide sales of US $18.8 billion.