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General Mills Is Feeling Walmart's Pain On The American Consumer

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- You may be seeing some new options for breakfast on your supermarket shelves.

General Mills (GIS - Get Report) is out with more than 150 new products this summer both in the U.S. and around the world. The company says they're tapping into the trends consumers want, "focusing on protein-packed products, gluten-free offerings, bold flavors, and indulgence."

Some products are new to store shelves but others are variations of already familiar brands like Chex Gluten Free Oatmeal and new flavors of Yoplait yogurt. General Mills detailed this campaign Tuesday at its Investor Day held at the New York Stock Exchange.

Don Mulligan, the company's CFO, says General Mills is "focused on holding down prices for the consumer while delivering for its shareholder." Mulligan shares Walmart's (WMT - Get Report) sentiment that the economic recovery is leaving many in America behind. "For the U.S. market, we very much echo the comments of Walmart: the consumer is still very cautious and we believe until we see disposable income levels increase at a more robust rate, that this will probably remain the case."

Despite the weak American consumer, General Mills is delivering for its shareholders. Mulligan says it's important to have "Earnings growth and returning strong cash flow to shareholders and we do both of those and we're able to pay a dividend of yield over 3%."

The CFO says his company, one of the world's largest branded packaged food producer is finding growth overseas in Brazil and China. General Mills is also looking to streamline operations in North American and hopes to cut $40 million in pre-tax costs during this fiscal year.

As for growth in products, Mulligan says he sees momentum in their Yoplait yogurt brand.

But not everyone on the street agrees. Wells Fargo said in their latest research note "General Mills faces headwinds similar to last year." As for General Mills' latest attempt to gain or retain market share, Wells Fargo says "We give credit to Mills for its attempts to respond to consumer demands . . . However, investors may regard some efforts as too late."

The newest lineup of products is the latest effort for General Mills to push forward in an otherwise stagnant packaged food sector. The company acknowledges the headwinds it faces, including inflation, competitive pressure and the cautious consumer. In response, the company is casting a wide net, going after "the rising wave of middle-class consumers in emerging markets, as well as millenials, 55+ consumers, and U.S. multicultural consumers."

As for its CFO, he doesn't just tout the company's products, he also consumes them. For breakfast this morning, Mulligan had a Yoplait greek yogurt and Nature Valley breakfast biscuits.

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