Monday, August 31, 2009

A peek inside General Mills

I spent a little over 24 hours in Minneapolis last week. It has to be the shortest trip I’ve ever been on, and at the same time, the most jam-packed.

I’ll just warn you, turn away now if you don’t like looking at other people’s trip photos. But, stick around if you want a little peek behind the scenes of a baking giant. I’ll keep the commentary short.

General Mills hosted about 50 bloggers to come to their international headquarters in Minnesota for their first ever Eat & Greet.

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They’ve been around forever, but I guess they’re kinda new to social media and were putting their foot in the door with this event. I’m not completely sure how they picked who they picked to attend, but I’m glad their PR company invited me. And actually when they said we would be visiting the Betty Crocker test kitchens, well… I was sold.

They flew us in on Wednesday in time to attend a reception dinner at the Mill City Museum that evening.

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The museum, which actually used to be an old mill, was downtown and right on the Mississippi River.

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Across the way you can see a hint of the Pillsbury Mill Building.

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Inside was set up for dinner and socializing.

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I didn’t know anyone. No one. So I was happy to meet another food blogger. This is Jenny from Picky Palate and so super sweet.

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Before dinner we were able to tour the Museum. Lots of cool General Mills and Betty Crocker memorabilia. Anyone have one of these Easy-Bake Ovens from 1972 or a Betty Crocker mixer?

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There was an interactive journey chronicling flour milling and its impact on Minneapolis through an eight-story Flour Tower Elevator Tour which was pretty cool. Don’t have pictures of that. I know… you’re disappointed.

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Here we are making each other pose with pancakes.

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Photo ops, taste-testing, flour feeling and then home to the hotel.

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The next morning. Early. We packed our stuff and headed off to General Mills. I have to say everything COMPLETELY exceeded my expectations.

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We were greeted by the Doughboy right when we walked in the door.

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The entire building or buildings I should say were beautiful. They had graphic details like this everywhere. Who else wants a word wall? Me. I do. I do.

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They had memorabilia exhibits, including Betty, the Green Giant, Wheaties and on and on.

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These old advertisements make me smile.

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As soon as everyone was in the building, we had a quick bite for breakfast.

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This is Anna from Cookie Madness, Megan from Megan’s Munchies, Jenny from Picky Palate and Nicole from Baking Bites.

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Yes. Yes. Yes. Betty Crocker Kitchens, here we come.

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This is a view of just part of the kitchens from an observation floor above. There are 19. Nineteen. Nine. Teen. Kitchens.

And excuse me, but look at that view.

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The Trix Bunny and Lucky Charms guy took pictures with everyone. Hi Amy!

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Doing double duty here. Filming Jenny with her new Flip camera (everybody got one) and trying to take still pics at the same time. And, she’s trying to grab as many box top coupons while keeping her dress from flying up. Guess we were both doing double duty.

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Then, this next part was like getting free samples in the grocery store… but on steroids. New cereals and …

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gluten free cereals to sample…

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Nut Clusters, Yoplait Smoothies, Parfait Delights, Fiber One Muffins.

Why did they even serve us breakfast. I was stuffed.

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These two were always nearby hamming it up.

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Bruschetta…

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Oh … if you watch the Food Network you should know who this is. Ask Aida was there to answer questions. This is the best photo I have where she’s also smiling. Sorry for the blurriness.

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More sampling and photo taking with Mel, A Dramatic Mommy.

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A little blogging in between. Not me. I didn’t even bring a computer.

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Here’s that pesky rabbit again. He thinks he’s being funny with the bunny ears. Okay, so it was pretty cute.

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Did I mention, we were also allowed behind the scenes of the brand new photography studios?

This was my favorite part. I could have spent the whole day… week… month here.

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As you enter, you’re greeted by a gallery of images. Photographers are given free license to create artwork using general mills products. These were just a few I was able to snap a pic of.

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Next was the prop room. How they can choose just the right white plate, I don’t know.

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Here’s sweet Megan with Hungry Girl. You know, the NYT Best Selling author of 200 Recipes Under 200 Calories. Okay, please say you don’t know who she is. I didn’t. But it’s probably because I eat at McDonald’s.

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And finally, lights, camera, action.

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Their proofing system is pretty amazing. They can look at photos on the fly. That’s a still camera on the right, not a video camera by the way. It takes a 98 meg file. That’s ginormous!

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This is the food stylist’s tool kit. Love it!

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Food bloggers getting tips from a food photographer. They even handed us their business cards. Big mistake.

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The photographers take all the photos for all the recipes, magazines, cookbooks and packaging.

And hearing the stories of how they’ll choose just the right brownie for a single shot, it’s no easy task.

Their work is beautiful though and here’s their website portfolio to prove it.

After the photo tour, we started wrapping things up. Lunch, the company gift store, and then a shuttle to the airport by 2:00 p.m.

General Mills was incredible. The people, the campus, the culture. If you live in Minneapolis, run and apply for a job. Now.

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In addition to their programs and products, they have an on-site restaurant, cafeteria and Caribou Coffee for employees.

They have a grocery store, childcare services, banking services, doctor’s office, dry cleaners, hair salon, photo lab, fitness center and gas station, all on the premises.

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Seriously, it’s like being in a mall.

And any minute, I expected to turn the corner and find a Lucky Charms Leprechaun Land amusement park complete with rainbow roller coaster.

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But alas, there was only this outdoor seating and some pretty amazing views.

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Here’s the store that carries all the General Mills products. I even spotted some Teriyaki-flavored Chex Mix. Cool.

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In addition to the corporate store and convenience store, they also have the cutest gift shop.

You can find all kinds of gifts from baby toys…

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… to even squirrel underpants. Gotta love this place.

201
Molly said...

What a fantastic trip, Bakerella! I'm off to your neck of the woods this weekend for the first weekend of SEC football! Will definitely be dining at TWO urban licks and Taqueria del Sol!

September 3, 2009 12:03 PM
202
Ann (Miss Sweetstory) said...

Thank you for such a wonderful post… I am biased, of course. I'm a Minneapolis/St. Paul native, but moved to England to marry some guy. :) You brought back some great memories!

September 3, 2009 03:08 PM
203
emily said...

how FUN for you!!! :)

September 3, 2009 03:28 PM
204
Deeba @Passionate About Baking said...

What a totally awesome experience!! Thank you for sharing it in such wonderful detail!

September 3, 2009 03:43 PM
205
Leslie said...

Amazing! And thanks for listing the blogs of all the ladies you met!

September 3, 2009 03:49 PM
206
june said...

who knew general mills could be freakin' fun!! i wannna go:) heck i wanna work there!!

September 3, 2009 04:42 PM
207
Zesty Cook said...

Such a great recap! Great photos… so jealous I was not there.

zesty

September 3, 2009 04:49 PM
208
Dolce said...

That's nice to see your face with the other blogger girls! And such a nice trip!

September 3, 2009 05:29 PM
209
Jenniffer said...

Oh wow! That looked like such a FUN trip! It was easy to see that you thoroughly enjoyed yourself! Thanks for sharing!

-Jenniffer
http://cupadeecakes.blogspot.com

September 3, 2009 08:32 PM
210
Mrs Hackney said...

Wow I would LOVE to visit there. Can anyone go or is it by invitation only? I can't believe how many kitchens Betty Crocker have, I'm so jealous!

September 3, 2009 10:23 PM
211
Hundewanderer said...

Cool, thank you for sharing.

September 3, 2009 11:21 PM
212
Retro Bakery said...

I'm jealous. You're awesome. ;) SO MUCH FUN!

September 4, 2009 02:34 AM
213
Diane Conn said...

so where do I send my resume? I could relocate for a job in thier photography studio!

Thanks for sharing!

September 4, 2009 03:13 AM
214
down pillow said...

Fantastic! Thanks for the photos

September 4, 2009 01:36 PM
215
love159 said...

Hi, I've visited your blog and enjoy it. Good your blog. Success for you.

September 4, 2009 02:06 PM
216
donnac said...

What fun. Glad you had such a good time!

September 4, 2009 02:22 PM
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Anonymous said...

I am gunna move to MN right now! Thanks for sharing your trip! It looked amazing. :)

Jen
jennifer_reichman@yahoo.com

September 4, 2009 03:35 PM
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grocery geek said...

Thanks Bakerella! I had no idea GM could be so fun. I LOVED the part about shopping on steroids. I tried your cupcake pops… making them I mean. I live in Houston TX if you need another TX example.
http://www.thegrocerygeek.net/2009/09/cupcake-pops-real-deal.html

September 4, 2009 05:10 PM
219
m said...

I am waiting for the announcement of a contest to win teriyaki chex mix or some other obscure general mills product. I mean, I'd enter. Then again, had I been on the trip I probably would have eaten it all already!

September 4, 2009 06:16 PM
220
Metronyx said...

Hi I just have to say. Wow what a yummy blog you have. I love your blog and dream about making cakes the way you do. Haven't really appriciated the american cultur that much. (No offence) But Martha Stewart and you kind of melts my heart. I'm just jealous of all the fun things you can buy for baking in USA. In Sweden where I live everything is forbidden. (Foodcolors etc) Keep up the good work.

September 4, 2009 08:30 PM
221
Baking Monster said...

I wish I could have been there for the photography part it looked amazing!

September 4, 2009 09:59 PM
222
dmh said...

I live here, and General Mills is NEVER hiring. Sad.

September 4, 2009 10:05 PM
223
Nicole said...

i love your site. I have featured it on mine just because i think it is wonderful! keep posting, ill keep reading!

September 5, 2009 02:40 PM
224
Oklahoma Granny said...

Thanks so much for the tour. You make me want to see it in person!

September 5, 2009 04:57 PM
225
The Miami Cookie Connoisseuse said...

Your blog is amazing. That trip looked like so much fun, although I wonder what they were thinking with the squirrel underpants???

September 6, 2009 04:57 AM
226
Anonymous said...

Umm.. I know this has nothing to do with the post but people where I live have the tendency to start "online" bakeries (orders via facebook) and one of them is using your name.. Her stuff doesn't look nearly as good as yours do but I felt the need to let you know

Here's the link:
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=154760566417

This is in no way advertising the group, I just hate people who rip off others.. [I couldn't figure out where to email you]

September 6, 2009 07:35 PM
227
Melissa said...

Wow – totally envious of the trip to General Mills. I am a huge fan of their brand, due in part to their boxtops for education program. I'm the chair for my daughter's elementary school and those things really add up. ;) If any of your trip buddies don't know what to do with theirs, I'm sure their local elementary school would be thrilled to take them! $0.10 each… cha-ching!

Thanks for sharing your journey! What a great vacation destination (if they do tours for the baking-obsessed public, that is).

September 7, 2009 01:47 AM
228
SnoWhite said...

Awesome! I grew up in Mpls — and have lots of friends who work at GM – but have yet to go inside for a tour! That place looks amazing.

September 7, 2009 02:10 AM
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brossettelewis said...

So jealous!

September 7, 2009 02:11 AM
230
shelley said...

omg i am sooo jealous! i would sooo love to be included in something like this! your photo's are wonderful, thanks for the tour, felt like i was there, but hmmmm no samples LOL glad you had a great time. thanks for sharing!
shelley
http://iamstillstandingafterallthistime.blogspot.com
http://theplaygroundprincess.blogspot.com

September 7, 2009 04:46 PM
231
Anonymous said...

And I thought the SPAM Museum in MN was fun! GM Tour looked amazing!! Did anyone else notice the brdige winking in the pic she posted entitled 'Across the way you can see a hint of the Pillsbury Mill Building.' Lower left hand corner. ;-)

September 8, 2009 03:41 AM
232
Miss-tearious said...

Hey, just so you know, your flip camera link is broken. :(

But this looks so fun. I would have loved to go there!

September 8, 2009 04:28 AM
233
Merlene said...

How well I remember my experience of going to the Betty Crocker building. It was such a thrill for me, and part of a wonderful trip,( in spite of the previous circumstances I’ll soon tell you about) . It was a planned tour when the ICES (www.ices.org) show was in Rochester, MN. My friend Carole Faxon and I got stopped for speeding on the way there, this prolonged our trip into the night. ( she fell asleep and I took the wrong turn….so it was HER fault!!!) ha-ha
We drove all night and long toward morning, it got hot and uncomfortable, so I removed my bra and threw it in the back seat. We arrived at the host hotel – just in time to see the bus taking off. I stopped, hopped out of the car and stopped the bus, asked them if they would please wait for us to park the car. He agreed, and I grabbed the first jacket I saw, not one color in it matching anything I was wearing.
Of course, the minute we got on the bus, Carole had to tell everyone I left my bra in the car!! One of the husbands of an ICES sister teased me all during the day. but I think it also added to the wonderful time we had. Every ICES seminar we went in to while at Betty Crocker’s, he’d announce what happened to me!! He teased me at every ICES convention after that, too. So embarassing!!! Believe me, I keep it on now, no matter how uncomfortable driving gets.
About 2 months ago, I broke the long handled red plastic Betty Crocker mixing spoon I got there and felt so sad. My friend Carole has passed on now, so I don’t get to travel for ICES shows….but if she was still here she’d say “Let’s go back so you can get another one.” Oh, when I think of all the good times we had, such wonderful memories, I’d give anything to go back once more.!!

September 23, 2009 04:20 PM
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Maria said...

Wow, that looked like fun!!! I love Lucky Charms and the Doughboy!

October 1, 2009 09:02 AM
235
Miss Cupcake said...

I looove everything about you Bakerella. You have even inspired me (even at 18) to start my own “baking blog!” I would love if you would check it out!
You are my inspiration!
miss cupcake
http://themisscupcake.blogspot.com

October 3, 2009 12:20 AM
236
Elizabeth said...

Squirrel underpants…. almost lost it! How funny.. Great trip .. and your commentary made it interesting.. what a treat to be able to go!

October 4, 2009 01:26 PM
237
Cortney said...

That’s so cool! The Mill City Museum is literally right around the corner from my office – so glad you had fun here in Minny!!

October 13, 2009 04:53 PM
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Merlene Tirone said...

oldest =B
2=A
3=C
4=G
5=H
6=F
7=D
newest=E

November 16, 2009 08:10 AM
239
Pam said...

Hi,

I discovered your blog after this post. WOW!!! I used to work for a competitor of General Mills and while our company was pretty decked out, nothing like this! I’ve always been fascinated by packaging and memorabilia and would have been in heaven looking at all those goodies. Thanks for sharing your tour. The next best thing to being there!

:-) Pam

November 16, 2009 10:36 AM
240
an encourager said...

Loved the tour! I have a friend who works there in the computer department! Fun place!

November 30, 2009 07:41 PM
241
Maggie said...

that looks so cool! I would love to take a tour there one day.

April 24, 2010 04:59 PM
242
Pam said...

I did the Betty Crocker tour soooo many years ago – glad to see that it is still going. I still have the little red spoon charm I bought on the trip.

September 19, 2010 06:33 PM
243
Monica (Ms. Hobby!) said...

Wow, I’m tempted to move to MN just to go work at General Mills. Thanks for the tour!

September 24, 2010 09:47 PM
244
Jane said...

It’s kind of cool to have a peek inside GM.
I live within a few miles of both their sites and have never had that experience, thank you for sharing!

October 12, 2010 01:08 AM
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