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Five minutes with Balki Radhakrishnan, vice president and managing director, General Mills AMEA

Five minutes with Balki Radhakrishnan, vice president and managing director, General Mills AMEA

US-based food company General Mills recently launched the world’s first Old El Paso restaurant in Dubai

Balki Radhakrishnan General Mills

Give us a brief business overview General Mills Middle East.
General Mills aims at serving its consumers through well-known brands such as Betty Crocker, Häagen-Dazs, Bugles, Nature Valley, Green Giant, Old El Paso, Pillsbury and many others. Our business in the Middle East has seen robust double-digit growth as we meet dynamic and emerging consumer needs across this region, and we are witnessing a strong growth across most of our product categories even during the current pandemic situation.

With the Covid-19 pandemic, how severely has supply chains for food and packaged products been disrupted?
At General Mills, our purpose is “Making Food the World Loves”. With the current pandemic situation, one could argue that this purpose has now evolved to “Making Food the World Needs”.

We are extremely proud of how our teams have worked incredibly hard to ensure that our products are available for consumers across the Middle East without any disruption. We have seen significant increase in consumer demand for our products, and have taken all measures to ensure uninterrupted supply.

Our factories have been running flat-out to ensure that we do not disappoint consumers as their consumption behaviours have evolved during this time. Sales, distribution and merchandising staff have been in the field throughout the pandemic – even during periods of strict lockdown.

Does General Mills have expansion plans within the Middle East, specifically in key markets such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia?
General Mills has been successfully expanding its portfolio of brands in the Middle East. General Mills [was recognised] as the most innovative snack company for the year 2019 in Saudi Arabia and the third most innovative company in the Middle East (according to the Innova 2019 Innovation Report).

Consumers are enjoying new ways of experiencing a heritage brand such as Betty Crocker through ready-to- eat cakes in Saudi Arabia.

One of our newest launches is Old El Paso, helping Middle Eastern families explore the culinary delights of Mexican cuisine at home. And in a first of its kind, we have an Old El Paso Restaurant in Dubai which delivers restaurant quality fajitas, tacos and quesadillas to the consumers’ home.

Do you foresee the Middle East as serving as a major production and manufacturing hub for several of the brands represented by General Mills?
We already have a big part of our business in the Middle East and almost of half of it is generated from products made locally. Many of our latest innovations such as Nature Valley Raw and Simple Bars, Old El Paso tortilla chips, or Bugles Fiery Hot and Sweet Chili Corn are all made locally in the Gulf.

A brand like Betty Crocker understands consumers in the Middle East well as it listens and embraces learning from the region. Our recent campaign ‘The Kitchen is for Everyone’ draws inspiration from an insight we gained by listening to a 10-year-old Emirati boy, Sultan.

This is a culture-defining campaign that in some ways is meaningfully addressing evolving gender-roles in the Middle East. You don’t see too many other examples in the world where a 100 year old global brand is learning from a 10 year old consumer.

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