News | June 7, 2005

General Mills Gold Medal Flour Celebrates 125 Years Of Baking And Innovation; Product Innovation And Creative Marketing Sustain No. 1 Brand For Over A Century

MINNEAPOLIS - General Mills Gold Medal flour, one of only a handful of U.S. grocery products to retain its status as the No. 1 selling flour after a century of existence, will mark its 125th anniversary on June 8, 2005.

Gold Medal received its name on June 8, 1880, when the Washburn Crosby Company, predecessor to General Mills, Inc., entered the first International Millers' Exhibition and won the gold, silver and bronze medals on the three grades of spring wheat patent process flour. The gold medal was given to Washburn's Superlative flour, which is still a brand sold today in the Bakery Flour channel. After winning the award, Washburn Crosby began using "Gold Medal" as the brand name on the firm's best grade of flour, and on Aug. 19, 1880, the first flour was packed and shipped under that now-famous brand.

Many different flour brands have dotted the history of General Mills, but one of the most well-known remains Gold Medal. In the last century, one of the most renowned flour advertising campaigns to consumers was the "Eventually ... Why Not Now?" campaign. Created in 1907 by Benjamin Bull, advertising manager for the Washburn Crosby Company, the slogan lasted well into the 1940s.

Gold Medal was one of the first food products to use premiums to attract consumers. Most often found in cereal boxes today, premiums began surfacing the 1920s with Gold Medal offering its consumers a free flour sack pin cushion. Washburn Crosby received thousands of responses in addition to hundreds of letters asking for cooking and baking advice. Washburn Crosby's advertising department created a fictional spokesperson to respond to these requests and called her Betty Crocker, using the last name of a retired company director by the name of Crocker.

Betty Crocker offered premiums to listeners of radio's first cooking show, "Gold Medal Flour Home Service Talks." For $1, a consumer received a recipe box with an initial set of recipes. Consumers received new recipes four times a year by sending in Gold Medal flour sack coupons.

In addition to being the No. 1 consumer branded flour, Gold Medal is the No. 1 brand of sack flour in commercial baking.

"The key to such longevity lies in the company's commitment to innovation and anticipating trends, as well as the ability to stay close to the needs of both the consumer and baker alike," Denise Holtz, marketing manager at General Mills, says. "Gold Medal's 125th anniversary signifies over a century of baking innovation."

General Mills has been an innovator in the flour industry since the 1960s. Consumer innovations through the years include: No Sift Flour (1961), Wondra Flour (1963), Better for Bread Flour (1979) and the Resealable plastic bag (2000). Innovations for commercial bakers include the introduction of a line of organic flours (1995) and the introduction of Harvest King Flour (1997) - an artisan baking flour used in the commercial baking segment.

Harvest King is a 100 percent hard winter wheat flour that was created in response to the growing artisan baking. Harvest King is specially milled to provide the balance of strength and tolerance needed for the long fermentation that defines artisan baking. General Mills plans to launch the product in grocery stores by the end of the year, targeting the growing consumer trend of artisan baking at home.

General Mills further solidifies its role as a leader and supporter of the artisan trade by providing a platinum-level sponsorship to the Bread Bakers Guild of America.

General Mills, with annual net sales of $12.3 billion, is a leading global manufacturer and marketer of consumer foods products. Its global brand portfolio includes Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Haagen-Dazs, Old El Paso and more. It also has more than 100 U.S. consumer brands, more than 30 of which generate annual retail sales in excess of $100 million. General Mills is also a leading supplier of baking and other food products to the foodservice and commercial baking industries.

Source: General Mills