General Mills, the company behind well-known brands including Old El Paso, Betty Crocker and Latina fresh pasta, recently welcomed Matthew Salter as managing director for Australia and New Zealand.

Over the last six years, Salter has been based in Switzerland, responsible for marketing in Europe and Australia, leading the development of General Mills’ brand portfolio strategy, innovation and campaign development, as well as functional capability building.

General Mills has identified Australia as one of eight key growth markets in its global accelerate strategy and Salter believes he has the deep category insights, brand launch experience and global connections to be able to accelerate growth in Australia and New Zealand.

“Our ambition is to consistently be a growth leader in food, and we will do that through bold brand building, scale, relentless innovation, and being a force for good,” Salter told Retailbiz in a recent interview.

“Leveraging our strong credentials as a great place to work, we will continue our journey on developing engaging leaders and surrounding our teams in a culture of learning and belonging. 

 We will look to experiment more, not just for growth but to learn, and further elevate our customer centricity and the development of our omni-channel potential through global insights and capabilities with local expertise and customer partnerships.”

When asked how the General Mills business has overcome the challenges presented by Covid-19 and pivoted to meet changing customer needs, Salter said the company takes serious responsibility in playing a part to help the nation, which is reflected in its product offering and partnership with Foodbank Australia. 

“With Foodbank Australia, we have been giving 10,000 dedicated meals of Latina Fresh ricotta and spinach agnolotti each month through our collaborative supply program which we have just extended into the year ahead,” Salter said.

“We have launched another round of ‘mess free challenge’ in partnership with the Nick Kygrios foundation, this time with a basketball theme to trigger donations of Old El Paso Mexican meal kits to Foodbank Australia.

“Throughout the last year we elevated the flexibility and agility of our manufacturing and logistics teams in partnership with customers to keep shelves full of product as we go through different stages of restrictions.

“Equally we didn’t stop innovating or investing in our brands. Last year we launched Old El Paso Tortilla Pockets to bring fun and connectivity to mealtime through colour, taste and customisation.

We have continued to serve family favourites like Latina Fresh Lasagne and Betty Crocker cakes, brownies and muffins, with family baking not just something to indulge in, but a fun activity for indoors.

“In the last six months we launched a new pasta brand, 25 Degrees South, leveraging local manufacturing expertise in fresh pasta to cater to a bigger share of the premium pasta market, with distinctively adult tastes and a great story of ingredients with Australian provenance.”

On a final note, Salter highlighted the lessons he has learnt over the past 18 months and how this has re-shaped his approach as a senior leader.

“First and foremost, the importance of continuing to be a force for good in sustainability, not just the need to reduce the impact to our environment, but to regenerate it. We have also seen the importance of improving food security and reducing food waste while valuing inclusion and a strong sense of belonging.

“Second, our opportunity to experiment more and be faster. We want to innovate, not just in product but in the way we do business to accelerate growth and solve real consumer problems.

“And finally, the importance of listening, setting clear priorities and then empowering our teams to go after them. We have great trust in our people, unleashing their full potential is one of my key focus areas for the year ahead.”