Decadent ice cream saves the day for General Mills

chicago/reuters / General Mills Inc.’s mix of foods and its limited exposure to Italy and Greece have insulated it a bit from Europe’s economic crisis, one of the company’s top executives said March 14.

The maker of Cheerios and other cereals has seen some European shoppers buy more items when they are discounted, or trade down to store brands, said Chris O’Leary, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of the company’s international business.

Like most food companies, General Mills raised prices on many of its products to offset soaring costs for commodities such as grain, and saw sales weaken as a result.

Still, a recent launch of two decadent Haagen-Dazs ice-cream flavours shows that new products can win over shoppers even during difficult economic times.

In late 2011, the company introduced Haagen-Dazs Secret Sensations, ice cream surrounding a liquid sauce, either “Chocolat Fondant” or crème brûlée.

“Our Haagen-Dazs business remains quite strong in Europe this year despite the economic troubles,” O’Leary told the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit.

General Mills has annual sales of about $15 billion, with about $3 billion coming from international markets.

General Mills is set to report results for its fiscal third quarter, which ended in late February, on March 21. Last month, it lowered expectations for the fiscal year after seeing some weak volume in the U.S. business.

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