Both firms were listed in the top 100 by Forbes for a second consecutive year.
St. Paul-based Ecolab ranked No. 31 out of 100 firms globally, while Golden Valley-based General Mills was No. 50. The publication lauded the companies' new products and services, as well their strong stock performance. Ecolab, which makes sanitizing products and water processing systems for several industries, has seen its shares more than double since the spring of 2009.
"We are one of the few companies who have run this [product sales and customer training] model and have done it successfully over a long period of time," said Ecolab CEO Doug Baker during a Credit Suisse conference Wednesday. "We have a very, very strong [product] pipeline."
In evaluating Ecolab, Forbes noted the company's recent spate of acquisitions, which helped it drive sales and enter new markets. Judges said Ecolab's stock, which closed Wednesday at $64.14, has been elevated by "an innovation premium" of 34.1 percent.
Baker told analysts it is integrating its recent Nalco acquisition and is using water technologies to help industrial companies conserve energy and save money. With Nalco, Ecolab will generate about $11 billion in annual sales.
In assessing General Mills, Forbes cited the company's wide array of products -- from breakfast cereals to frozen vegetables -- as a sign that it is a top-notch innovator. Forbes judges said General Mills' stock, which closed at $39.30 Wednesday, has enjoyed an "innovation premium" of 28.8 percent.
"We're extremely honored to be recognized by Forbes," said Peter Erickson, senior vice president of innovation, technology and quality at General Mills. "I see this honor as a strong endorsement of our employees' hard work and relentless pursuit of innovation in all aspects of our business around the world."
Along with product innovation, Forbes judges looked for companies with a market cap of more than $10 billion and those that spent more than 2.5 percent of their revenue on research and development projects over seven years.
Ecolab has 1,300 scientists and has spent $750 million in research, product development and engineering solutions for customers in the hotel, restaurant, beverage manufacturing and hospital industries. General Mills has also spent hundreds of millions of dollars on research. This year, it launched 100 new products globally, including Progresso Recipe Starters cooking sauces, Yoplait Greek 100 yogurt, Apple Cinnamon Chex and Fiber One Chewy bars.
Last year, Ecolab and General Mills ranked 28 and 31, respectively, on the Forbes' list. The two firms were the only Minnesota-based companies to make the list this year.
Other U.S. companies to make Forbes' most innovative list include Apple, Procter & Gamble, Amazon, Monsanto, Hershey, Kraft Foods, Kellogg and PepsiCo.
Dee DePass 612-673-7725