The past few weeks have been big for sales of General Mills’ Häagen-Dazs ice cream in its biggest market — China.
The country and surrounding places in East Asia, including Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea, last week celebrated the autumn harvest, a holiday timed to the September full moon. In China, the celebration is known as the moon festival. A common treat is a mooncake, a dense, ultrarich cake filled with lotus paste or red bean paste and an egg yolk, the moon in the middle of it.
Over the years, big foodmakers have come up with their own versions of the mooncake. Mrs. Field’s Cookies, for instances, sells mooncake-shaped brownies in Hong Kong and elsewhere. Häagen-Dazs for years has made mooncake-shaped ice cream snacks. The company sells them for premium prices. It begins taking orders weeks ahead of the holiday.
The business is so beneficial to General Mills that Chief Financial Officer Donald Mulligan mentioned mooncakes at a New York investor conference this month.
“The Mid-Autumn Festival is approaching,” he said. “This year, we are expanding this business into eight additional cities across China. With price points ranging from just over $25 for a 14-ounce serve up to $120 for 40 ounces, these products create positive sales and margin mix for us.”
By contrast, a 14-ounce carton of Häagen-Dazs sells for less than $5 at a typical Minnesota grocery store. General Mills has 260 upscale Häagen-Dazs shops in China. It plans to open 70 more in the next year.
Meanwhile, another Minnesota company also does well during the autumn holidays in Asia. Hormel’s Spam is popular in South Korea. It’s remembered as an affordable meat product during the days the country was rising from the ashes of the Korean War. Giant Spam gift sets cost $50 or more in upscale department stores.
Class is back in session
Here’s some back-to-school advice to students from Minnesota CEOs:
• “Get involved,” said Scott Anderson, CEO of Patterson Companies. “Your classwork is the foundation for learning, but your leadership and life skills grow from personal interaction. Be it the athletic field, the performing arts or various clubs you can join, all will be a part of preparing you for a great future.”
• CEO Walter White of Allianz Life North America: “There are many things I wish I had mastered in school that would have been fun to know and useful afterward, like speaking another language, playing an instrument, conducting an interview or addressing a large group. But more important is the one thing I wish I had known … focus less on how to fit in and be kinder to those who stand apart.”
• Doug Milroy, CEO of G&K Services: “Cut everyone a little slack. Everyone has a cross to bear and the only thing you don’t know is how big that cross is and how well equipped they are to carry it. If you even think about doing something nice for someone, just do it! There isn’t enough kindness out there. Focus on your grades and take math. High school and college education and grades will matter … for the rest of your life. Lots of people only realize that when it is too late.”
• Sarah Caruso, CEO of the Greater Twin Cities United Way: “Take risks, expect to fail and learn from failure. In college, I ran for student body president. I lost. Then I ran for finance chair of the student senate. I won, and it was a great role. Perfect setup for my first job as a commercial banker. In graduate business school, I took a creative-writing class. It was a great break from the business school grind, and I got to see this great university in a whole new way.”
• Retired Mosaic CEO Fritz Corrigan and fellow Dartmouth University classmates, approaching the 50th anniversary of their 1964 graduation, last week presented the 1,200 seniors of the class of 2014 with copies of “Pearls of Leadership Wisdom: Lessons for Everyday Leaders” by Sandra Davis, co-founder in 1981 and CEO of Minneapolis-based MDA Leadership Consulting. The book combines leadership research with real-life experience of Davis and clients to create take-away lessons. “Sandra is a great leader and author and she will help this class get off to a great head start,” Corrigan said.
• Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank, in partnership with the St. Paul Port Authority and United Fund Advisors, has closed on $15.5 million of debt and tax credit equity financing to help finance the $24.5 million Washburn Center for Children mental health center that will serve the Twin Cities from north Minneapolis. U.S. Bank’s commitment includes an $8.8 million loan bridging the receipt of future capital campaign pledges. USB also recently increased its commitment to the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers (MCCD) by $500,000 to $1.25 million. MCCD is a nonprofit community development financier focused on small businesses in low-income neighborhoods. MCCD “Open for Business” financing over the last year provided more than $1.5 million in direct credit and leveraged more than $8.5 million in other capital in support of 60 Twin Cities-area businesses that retained 225 jobs and added about 70.