General Mills recently opened a $15 million innovation, technology, and quality center in Shanghai, China – the company’s first major technical center outside of its Minneapolis headquarters. The center will conduct high-quality product research and development while providing support to regional customers. Ken Powell, the company’s Chairman and CEO, described the new center as a “tremendous opportunity to accelerate innovation in the Great China region and better support this rapidly expanding business.”
On July 8, General Mills executive vice-president and chief operating officer for international business, Chris O’Leary, told investors that the company’s 2015 plan is to open 80 new Häagen-Dazs ice-cream shops and enter 16 new cities in China. The company also began construction on a new manufacturing facility and hopes to break into China’s $8 billion yogurt industry. The Minnesota-based company expects continued double-digit growth in China after constant currency net sales reached over $700 million this year.
Beyond General Mills’ commercial growth, China is important to the company’s Minneapolis headquarters and larger Minnesota 5th Congressional District in other ways. In 2012, Minneapolis celebrated the 20th anniversary of its sister-city relationship with Harbin, China. China is the district’s largest Asian export destination with $239 million goods exported in 2012, an increase of over 400% from 2003. The district is also home to nearly 6,000 Chinese Americans, its second largest population after Indian Americans.
Kevin Lair is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington.