Editor Bob Garrison says Minneapolis’ hottest personality is not Brett Favre. Rather, it’s the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Let me congratulate General Mills, which reported its second quarter FY ’10 results in mid-December – topped off by news that quarterly net earnings rose 49.5 percent.

During the 13 weeks ended November 29, 2009, officials said net sales rose 4 percent; segment operating profit rose 13 percent; diluted earnings per share grew by double digits to $1.66; and – excluding certain items affecting comparisons – earnings per share grew 13 percent to $1.54, exceeding the consensus of analyst estimates.

Six-month performance figures were equally strong, leading Chairman and CEO Ken Powell to note, “ … These good sales levels, combined with the accumulating benefits of our holistic margin management (HMM) efforts, are continuing to drive terrific operating performance in our manufacturing plants. This strong, fundamental business momentum has enabled us to raise our EPS targets for the full year.”

The Doughboy’s secret to success? Interestingly, Powell himself never misses an opportunity to reference HMM and credit officials for their cross-functional collaboration and performance.

That ledRefrigerated & Frozen Foodsto contact Vice President of Manufacturing Donzel Leggett. Leggett says the answer to better performance – lies in asking better questions.

“HMM is a strategy for re-evaluating the total product offering, the production process, even the financial assessment of a brand,” he explains. “We want to understand, ‘What are consumers looking for?’ ‘What do they truly value?’ and ‘What are they willing to pay for a product that meets or exceeds those expectations?’

“We work to understand the perception of a [General Mills] brand and its key growth drivers,” he adds. “This includes evaluating the product from seed to shelf, removing any non-value creating components and reinvesting any savings in value creating opportunities. It’s all to optimize the value of the total product offering.”

Leggett shares two examples of HMM applied to refrigerated foods.

Pillsbury cookie dough: “Our Pillsbury division found that the design of one of our refrigerated cookie dough products was resulting in additional ingredient and manufacturing costs. After talking with consumers, the team found that ingredients represented one area where they could save money without impacting consumers.

Turtle cookies contain pecans. Yet our researchers found that consumers like walnuts just as well – and they cost less. The business changed that formulation to include walnuts – with no impact to the product taste or quality. We also started mixing chocolate chips into our dough, instead of sprinkling a few on top of the cookie. These two changes resulted in an annual cost savings of $5 million dollars.”

Yoplait yogurt: “Yoplait used lids to coordinate with the color on the Yoplait cup – depending on the yogurt flavor. Because lid color [ultimately] was not important to consumers, we were able to increase our buying efficiency. We changed to one lid color (silver) across all Yoplait flavors. This saved the brand $2 million annually.”