October 7, 2015

Exploring: General Mills

Exploring General Mills | The Naptime Chef

Last week I spent an inspiring two days at the General Mills headquarters in Minneapolis, MN. I have a long history as a Cheerios eater and have bought their cereals for my children for many years. While I express concern in general about things like artificial colors and ingredients, I don’t worry about their line of cereals. This recent announcement put my mind at ease.

Still, I was so curious to learn more about General Mills since it a big food company which can be a bit mysterious and hard to crack. Here a few things that I learned and came to love about the company:

The campus is amazing: General Mills employs thousands of people so I didn’t know what to expect with their offices. Would they be outdated and cramped? Stressful-feeling and dull? No! In fact, it was completely the opposite! The building, which is really a giant indoor campus, is light-filled, warm, and inspiring. It contains a cafĂ©, cafeteria, hair salon, nurse’s office, shipping office, high-end daycare, and so much more. Everyone I spoke with said they rarely have to leave during the day and that the offices are incredibly comfortable. I was bowled over by how many cozy nooks their were for quick meetings and small gatherings. It is a genuinely enjoyable place to be. Now I know why everyone I saw, whether they were escorting our group or not, was so happy.

Exploring: General Mills | The Naptime Chef

Exploring: General Mills | The Naptime Chef

Exploring: General Mills | The Naptime Chef

Public art: stone Cheerios!

Exploring: General Mills | The Naptime Chef

The Betty Crocker Kitchens are better than Disneyland (spoiler: Betty Crocker is not actually a real person): There is no mystery about how much I love baking. So cooking in the Betty Crocker Kitchens was my equivalent of the Magic Kingdom. The kitchens are filled with light from two-story windows, are totally immaculate, and stocked with every kind of baking tool you could ever need times 100. If I lived within two states of the kitchens I’d probably be there every day. No joke! We had a little baking exercise with cereal and I made apple bread with Golden Graham streusel. (I’ll post the recipe tomorrow.) This is also where they test recipes for the Pillsbury Bake-Off!

Exploring: General Mills | The Naptime Chef

Exploring: General Mills | The Naptime Chef

Cereal production is fascinating: Over the course of the two days General Mills shared all sorts of interesting information about how they approach cereal production. They recently announced that several of their Cheerios products are now gluten-free and a mill manager showed us this video. Did you know that going gluten-free wasn’t about changing the grains used to make the cereal, just about getting out the few foreign grains like barley that sometimes sneak into crops in the field? How cool that they responded to the market place demands so quickly and have still maintained producing a product we all love.

Exploring: General Mills | The Naptime Chef

Exploring: General Mills | The Naptime Chef

Cheerios before they are puffed!

Sugar is a hot topic: My new friends Tiffany, Kimberly, Anjali, and Jamie attended with me. We all expressed the same concern right off the bat: too much sugar in cereals. Amazingly, General Mills shared that they have the same views. They have families too and don’t want their children consuming the equivalent of a candy bar for breakfast. Over the past few years they’ve been working hard to reduce sugar content in all their cereals while still maintaining the flavors that consumers love. It is not an easy task and change can’t happen overnight. But they are excited to be on this journey and are working very hard on making long term, healthy changes to their products.

Exploring: General Mills | The Naptime Chef

Food photography in amazing: I am still an amateur food photographer, but I’ve seen the pros at work. And, let me tell you, the food photograph team and facilities here at General Mills are bar none. The prop closet is the equivalent of the fashion closet at Vogue. The cameras, lighting set-ups, and kitchens for food styling are totally beyond. I don’t even know how to explain it all other than to say the professionals are truly awesome. There is a reason those brownies on the Betty Crocker boxes look so good!

Exploring: General Mills | The Naptime Chef

Exploring: General Mills | The Naptime Chef

Exploring: General Mills | The Naptime Chef

Exploring: General Mills | The Naptime Chef

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Coffee is nirvana: This really needs no explanation. I am not a big coffee drinker and I swear this would convert me if I had access to it everyday. In fact, I could – here is the recipe – but I won’t go down that road. I’ll wait until I get to visit General Mills again!

Starting off the morning at @generalmills with Cinnamon Toast Crunch Coffee. You guys…😍😍

A video posted by Kelsey Banfield (@naptimechef) on

Exploring: General Mills | The Naptime Chef

Exploring: General Mills | The Naptime Chef

(Note: This was a sponsored trip to General Mills. I was thrilled to go and support a brand I love. All photos taken by General Mills, except the coffee video. Please do not repost the photos without express permission.)