Hanna Johnson is a corporate communications associate at General Mills, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She manages "A Taste of General Mills," the official General Mills blog, and helps represent the company on various social media sites, and contributes to the company intranet and website. She began her career at General Mills in 2019.
When Dean Nole, owner of Café CaNole in Utica, New York, shared his ideas on how General Mills could improve its flour, he wasn’t expecting to get a new product out of it.
Nole, a traditionally trained Italian baker and a General Mills customer for 25 years, sat down with Tom Santos, a General Mills “Doughminator” over some coffee and biscotti and shared how our flour could better serve bakers.
“He told me, ‘You have great flour, but unless you have the size right, and the packaging right, and unless it looks Italian, you’re going to have a lot of trouble selling it,” says Santos.
Our Neapolitan winter wheat flour originally came in 50-pound bags with packaging that looked American.
“I told Tom, Italians will never buy this flour because it screams ‘America,’” says Nole. “The flour coming in from Italy is great, but you’ve got Mills right here and it’s a fresher product. It just needs a new look.”
Our Convenience & Foodservice team took the idea and moved it forward, launching Di Prim´Ordine Farina, a premium European-style flour, now in 27.5-pound bags with traditional Italian packaging.
“We took this customer feedback as an opportunity to better compete in the marketplace,” says Brenda Mengelkoch, business planning lead for Convenience & Foodservice at General Mills.
The dough is ideal for hand-stretching and a hot, fast bake. And the new operator-friendly sizing makes it easier to store and use within different formulas.
The best part is that the flour is great for more than just pizza and focaccia,” says Nole. “I’m actually using it to start a new line of cookies at my café.”
The product is also a great example of the value of listening to consumers.
“I used to own a bakery for 17 years before I came to General Mills,” says Santos. “It’s cool to see an independent operator make a suggestion to a giant company like General Mills and get a product out of it.”
“When you can relate to someone in your field, it’s wonderful. The fact that they actually listen is even better,” adds Nole.