Within a large company like General Mills, there are countless relationships formed, built and maintained each and every day. From the company’s customers to its employees, from its investors to its suppliers, vendors and other external partners, Minneapolis-based General Mills prides itself on its commitment to making those relationships last for the long haul.
One way the company has demonstrated that commitment in recent years is through its increased focus on external partner development. This sometimes means seeking new partnerships to solve specific problems or develop specific products, such as the partnerships sought through General Mills’ open innovation platform G-WIN. Other times, the best solution is to revisit past relationships and embark on new projects that are mutually beneficial to both parties. And sometimes, the latter scenario results in the development of a delicious, convenient, new breakfast product-Pillsbury Grands! biscuit sandwiches.
In June 2010, General Mills sought out an open innovation partner to help create and assemble a homemade-style Pillsbury biscuit sandwich that would offer consumers a quick and easy way to enjoy a hot breakfast at home. While the Pillsbury R&D team had the expertise in making superior biscuit dough, General Mills’ own plants had limited capacity available at that time to bake and assemble the biscuit sandwiches. That’s why it looked for a partner with the capabilities to help develop and successfully assemble the biscuit toppings, in order to save time and reduce the cost of the project.
Pillsbury principal scientist Peeyush Maheshwari suggested that the project team, led by external supply chain manager Mike Anderson, visit Better Baked Foods, North East, Pa., to see the company’s capabilities and gauge its interest in collaborating on the biscuit sandwich concept.
Prior to working on the Pillsbury team, Maheshwari previously supported innovation on the Totino’s brand at General Mills. In that role, Maheshwari formed a relationship with Better Baked Foods to help Totino’s develop a new pizza product. As things often go with new product development, the project they were working on at that time did not come to fruition; however, Maheshwari and Better Baked Foods maintained their relationship over the years through continued correspondence and networking, with both parties hoping for a future opportunity to work together again.
That opportunity presented itself in September 2010, when General Mills moved forward with developing Pillsbury Grands! biscuit sandwiches. Because of the existing relationship between the two companies, Better Baked Foods got to work on the project in a matter of 10 days.
Better Baked Foods brought a number of assets to the project with its extensive baking technology and expertise. When its technical capabilities were paired with General Mills’ internal expertise, the result was a unique and superior-quality sandwich that couldn’t have been achieved as quickly or successfully had General Mills not worked with an external partner like Better Baked Foods.
General Mills credits much of the project’s success to Better Baked Foods’ “can-do” attitude and dedication to honoring commitments and deadlines. When faced with obstacles during the course of the project, the General Mills and Better Baked Foods teams worked together diligently to create a product that was not only aesthetically appealing, but also delicious.
Better Baked Foods regards the project as a true testament of teamwork between two organizations, with both companies coming together to meld their strengths and meet an aggressive timeline.
“The phrase ‘teamwork’ gets overused and at times underappreciated; however, in this case it was neither,” says Joe Pacinelli, president and COO of Better Baked Foods. “Partnerships are created through actions not words, and standing shoulder-to-shoulder on a production line sorting product, collecting data, moving material and even fetching supplies for the associates is the true meaning of partnering.”
In the end, General Mills’ partnership with Better Baked Foods resulted in a successful first-entry into savory frozen breakfast foods for the Pillsbury line.