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General Mills Inc. has spent years reformulating cereals

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fuzzy Member Level  Sunday, 03/20/16 09:38:48 AM
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General Mills Inc. has spent years reformulating cereals like Trix to remove artificial flavors and synthetic colors. Investors will find out this week whether the effort has paid off or whether the muted colors have turned off loyal customers.

The Minneapolis food giant is set to report quarterly earnings Wednesday amid a slumping cereal market. General Mills' U.S. cereal sales fell to $2.31 billion in fiscal 2015 from $2.35 billion in fiscal 2010. In the same time period, the company's overall sales rose 20%, but the Big G cereals remain an important part of its business, contributing 13% of total revenue.

General Mills executives have said restoring growth for its U.S. cereal sales is a top priority for its fiscal year ending in May.

The company isn't alone in its cereal conundrum. Consumers across the country are eating less of the processed oats and grains in milk for breakfast, turning instead to higher-protein, portable meals like Greek yogurt and breakfast sandwiches.

General Mills' expensive cereal project came to fruition in January when it replaced traditional varieties of Golden Grahams, Trix and Reese's Puffs on grocery shelves with new, more-natural versions.

The company said at an industry conference last month that retail cereal sales were trending positive so far, up about 1% in December and January, according to Nielsen. That compares to a 6% drop for its November-ended quarter. The company also said that making its Cheerios gluten free last fall has boosted revenue.

But the real picture is likely to come in General Mills' earnings report Wednesday. Depending on what they see, investors may decide executives' optimism for one of the company's biggest profit drivers is unfounded.


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