The reboot of Hamburger Helper hasn’t exactly kicked in.
Last summer, Golden Valley-based General Mills Inc. undertook a major renovation of the classic dry dinner mix, introducing new products, new packaging and new marketing.
But sales in General Mills’ U.S. meals division — which includes Hamburger Helper — fell 4 percent to $1.42 billion in the company’s recently completed fiscal year. General Mills’ meals business posted the largest percentage sales decline of any of its U.S. retail divisions.
“Our miss in meals last year was in Helpers,” General Mills CEO Ken Powell told the Star Tribune after the company released earnings this week. “I think that is still a work in progress.”
General Mills revamped the brand last summer, bolstering its chicken offerings — to reflect chicken’s huge popularity — and combining sauce pouches with the customary dry mix and pasta. The product is effectively called just “Helper” now.
General Mills relaunched Helper after it had lost nearly 20 percentage points of dry dinner market share between 2010 and mid-2013, according to IRI, a Chicago-based market researcher, which tracks sales at conventional food retailers.
During that same time, Kraft Foods grabbed about 20 points of share due to the launch of its Velveeta Cheesy Skillets dry dinner mix.
Fast-forward to mid-2014, and the market share equation between General Mills and Kraft remains about the same, according to IRI. So at least General Mills has prevented further share erosion.
But the dry dinner mix category has seen serious erosion. Sales were down 10 percent from mid-June of 2013 to mid-June of this year, according to IRI, and both General Mills and Kraft saw significant declines.
The rest of General Mills meals division — namely Progresso soup and Old El Paso Mexican products — fared considerably better than Helper last year.