General Mills seeks next-generation easy-to-open can

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Open innovation Wheat Gluten-free diet General mills

General Mills seeks next-generation easy-to-open can
The next generation easy-to-open can, sodium-free ingredients that enhance salt perception and technology that can stop gluten-free pasta going mushy and prevent green veg from turning brown in the canning process.

These are just some of the challenges General Mills has asked potential partners to solve as its open innovation project steps up a gear.

The US-based firm, which is best known in the UK for its Old El Paso range and Häagen-Dazs ice cream, has been steadily ramping up its open innovation infrastructure to make it even easier for external collaborators to work with its research & development (R&D) team and get new products to market more quickly.

Well-articulated business needs

While many rivals had embraced the principles of open innovation, General Mills has gone one step further by publishing detailed lists ​of technical problems it is trying to solve on its G-WIN website, based on a recognition that success rests on well-grounded and well-articulated business needs, said Kamel Chida, connected innovation senior manager.

Critically, General Mills was not looking for ideas, but fully formed technologies or products, said Chida, who was speaking to at the Food and Drink Innovation Network’s open innovation conference​ in Daventry yesterday.

“We are not looking for ideas. We are looking for solutions.”

Some of the briefs are very detailed: “We seek a proposal that presents gluten free pasta that maintains its texture after process through high temperatures and times of the canning process, have a similar texture to traditional wheat pasta, and no strong off flavours…”

Others focus on packaging challenges: “We currently package a dry, shelf stable food product that contains some free oil. We use polyethylene coated paperboard to prevent the free oil from making grease stains on the carton. We seek a proposal that presents a more cost effective, grease-barrier for paperboard.”

Getting your own house in order

A key learning from embracing the principles of open innovation was the importance of sharing expertise within your own four walls as well as engaging with third parties, added Chida.

Indeed, some of General Mills’ most exciting new products had been developed through “breaking down the barriers” ​within its own organisation and employing technology from one part of the business in a completely different area, he said.

The firm has also set up internal conferences in which staff from across all of its business units are invited to share ideas.

There were several levels of collaboration that could be explored in any open innovation project, said Chida, beginning with colleagues, progressing onto key suppliers and then opening up to other new partners, from manufacturers, ingredients suppliers and packaging firms to academics and entrepreneurs.

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1 comment

Gluten free foods

Posted by Anna Jacobs,

Please tell General Mills to keep experimenting on the gluten-free front. But I wish they wouldn't add maize to everything. A significant number of us are maize intolerant as well as wheat intolerant. In fact, the only thing that grows on a grassy stalk that I can eat is rice.

Plain rice noodles don't go mushy if you don't overcook them and they do very well instead of pasta. I don't want my pasta substitute to look like wheat. (Shudder!)

I can't buy most gluten free foods because of the maize, so I'm still severely limited and fed up of making my own bread. I would love to spend more money on General Mills' products. I could even tell them a good recipe for wheat-free pizza tbase hat freezes brilliantly. I have quite a few good recipes, but can't interest manufacturers in talking to me. They seem to make decisions about 'free-from' products without referring to the people they're catering for.

This is probably another wasted email!

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