Food Waste

General Mills, in partnership with its foundation and external partners, is catalyzing a new frontier of food waste reduction and surplus food recovery. Together we can tackle this issue.


Rescuing good food

As a global food company, General Mills believes that food loss and waste* are major environmental and economic challenges that undermine food security, contribute to climate change, unnecessarily consume natural resources, like water, and add more costs to families, communities and businesses alike. We take a broad approach to addressing food rescue, from reducing loss in our operations and collaborating across the industry, to empowering food businesses in surplus food recovery, educating consumers on how to save food at home and engaging with communities worldwide. The General Mills Food Waste Action Team – composed of employees from global sustainability, philanthropy, supply chain, government affairs and environmental standards – collaborates to drive progress and identify new opportunities for impact.

A manufactured approach to rescue food

Operations We closely monitor and manage our manufacturing processes to keep surplus food out of the waste stream. Surplus food from our operations is first offered to food bank partners to feed hungry people; the remainder is repurposed for animal feed or anaerobic digestion. In fiscal 2019, 4% of our total production was food waste, and only 1% of that went to landfills. In addition, 12 facilities (24% of the global total) met our zero-waste-to-landfill criteria in fiscal 2019.

We also work to reduce food waste in our office buildings. At our headquarters, we increased compost collection by 70% in fiscal 2019 compared to fiscal 2017 and reduced landfill waste by 30%.
Industry We actively participate in industry, nonprofit and government groups focused on food loss and waste reduction as well as surplus food recovery, including AMERIPEN, the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the International Food Waste Coalition, ReFED (Rethink Food Waste Through Economics and Data) and the U.S. Food Waste Challenge.

We are part of an industry-wide effort to standardize food product date labels to improve clarity about quality and safety and reduce the amount of good food that’s thrown away. As of November 2019, we have updated approximately 80% of our U.S. packages.
Food retailers General Mills is committed to increasing surplus food recovery, especially among consumer-facing food businesses – grocery stores, restaurants and other food outlets. These organizations collectively account for 40% of all food waste, roughly 50 billion pounds (more than 20 million metric tons) per year in the U.S. alone.

During the past three years, our global investments in food recovery technology have empowered more than 30,000 retail and foodservice locations to participate in systematic food rescue.
Consumers We educate consumers on ways to save food at home:
• General Mills promotes Save the Food, a U.S.-based campaign from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Ad Council that provides tips on how to store, cook and save food.
• Since more than 40% of food waste happens at home, General Mills developed and launched the #tastenotwaste initiative on in 2018 and a follow-up #pantryraid challenge in 2019. These campaigns provided consumers with information on food waste and tips on how to reduce waste at home.
Communities General Mills provides philanthropic support to leading nonprofits that makes it possible for food manufacturers, grocers, restaurants, distributors, trucking companies and other organizations to donate surplus food so it can be distributed to people in need.
• Our product donations to food banks enabled 28 million meals to nourish people across the world in 2019.**
• Our investments to scale the MealConnect platform helped recover more than 1.6 billion pounds of surplus food.

*General Mills defines food waste and loss within our operations as any food products that were intended for human consumption and are no longer able to be consumed by humans, including those waste streams that are instead diverted to
animal feed. We also recognize the following distinction, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO): Food loss occurs along the food supply chain from harvest up to, but not including, the retail level; food
waste occurs at the retail and consumption levels.
**In addition to the 28 million meals enabled by General Mills food donations to nourish people, the company also donated nearly 2 million pounds of pet food to charitable partners.


    Leading on surplus food recovery

    Our approach

    To ensure no good food goes to waste and that the world’s surplus food is used to nourish people, we are leveraging our philanthropy and food system expertise to catalyze a new era of surplus food recovery enablement.

    Our efforts have resulted in grocery stores, restaurants and other food outlets around the globe gaining systematic food recovery solutions, so that their good surplus food can now be used to nourish hungry people, not end up in landfills. We take a collective impact approach to food waste reduction and food recovery, working with cross-sector coalitions and nonprofit organizations around the globe with a focus on scaling innovative new capabilities in surplus recovery and redistribution to charities.

    Our goals

    • Invest in food recovery networks and platforms to empower 50,000 food retailers in surplus food rescue by 2030.*
    • Donate General Mills surplus food to enable 250 million meals for food-insecure people by 2030.*
    • Enable 25 communities across North America to expand their surplus food recovery capacity through innovative approaches by 2021.
    *From 2020 baseline

    Our progress

    In 2019, we achieved – and in some cases far exceeded – our 2020 goals:

    • Our global investments in food recovery technology over the past three years have empowered more than 30,000 retailers and food service operators worldwide to participate in systematic food rescue (exceeding our 2020 goal of 25,000 food retailers).
    • The MealConnect food recovery platform created by Feeding America and funded by General Mills has been adopted by more than 50 food transport companies and has enabled more than 1.6 billion pounds of good, surplus food to be recovered and charitably redistributed, equal to more than 1.3 billion meals.
    • Donations of General Mills surplus food enabled 28 million meals across the world in 2019.
    • Twenty nonprofit innovators expanded their food recovery activities and impact in 2019 using grants from General Mills (exceeding our goal of supporting 10 community nonprofits to expand their food recovery capacity).

    Our partners

    Since food waste is an issue that affects the entire "farm-to-fork” continuum – impacting growers, families, communities, the environment and businesses – we engage with a wide variety of partners to advance our impact goals. Our partnerships include organizations that are centered on: strengthening the capacity, safety and efficiency of food banks worldwide; identifying and catalyzing innovative new food recovery solutions; and expanding the global knowledge base and insights about scalable, high-impact solutions to food waste and loss.

    To accelerate systems change, General Mills supports the work of ReFED, a nonprofit and think-and-do tank that works across sectors, regularly convening and connecting businesses, government leaders, environmental organizations, community nonprofits, researchers, investors and others committed to reducing food waste by sharing insights, aligning investments and actions, and collaborating to scale solutions.

    We believe food banking is an effective solution that serves as a nexus between sectors to address food insecurity while also reducing food loss and waste at the community level. Food banks alleviate hunger while significantly reducing food waste in the communities they serve by recovering perfectly edible, nutritious foods – such as surplus dairy, fruits, vegetables, cereals and lean proteins – and redirecting that food to people in need. To advance and expand food banking worldwide, General Mills invests time, food and philanthropy year-round in leading food bank networks, including Feeding America, the European Food Banks Federation (FEBA) and the Global Foodbanking Network. For example:

    • In the U.S., we partner with Feeding America, and we continue to invest to scale the MealConnect food recovery technology platform, which gives food donors like grocery stores, restaurants and cafeterias a streamlined way to transform their surplus into nourishing meals for food-insecure neighbors.
    • In the U.K., General Mills provides philanthropic support to FareShare, which pioneered a retail food rescue technology platform called FareShareGO that has recovered 46 million pounds of surplus food to date and empowered thousands of retail locations in the U.K. with systematic food recovery capabilities, including Tesco, Asda and Waitrose stores.


    Advancing innovative food recovery models

    Beyond food banks, General Mills is also helping to pilot and scale innovative approaches to expand surplus food recovery by supporting nonprofits that are developing alternative operating models for food rescue and redistribution.

    In 2019 we announced the winners of our Food Recovery Champions program, which awarded US$1 million in grants to nonprofits in Canada and the U.S. that are serving their communities through novel methods of surplus food recovery.

    Food Recovery Champions targeted outcomes

    • Increase quantity of surplus food recovered and redistributed
    • Increase number of people served / benefiting
    • Increase efficiency of food recovery
    • Increase reliability of food distribution to community feeding agencies