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General Mills South Africa G lobalisation has been the buzz word in business for a number of years now. However, when the product being distributed is food, issues of culture and taste vary greatly from country to country, providing a real challenge. In just 10 short years, General Mills has successfully introduced many of its much- loved food brands to the South African market. It hasn't always been an easy journey, but as managing director Craig Leathwhite explains, quality has given the business a competitive advantage. " General Mills is among the world's leading food companies, and offers consumers around the world products that enhance nutrition, shorten preparation times, provide health benefits, enable on- the- go eating and- of course- taste great," he says. " Our goal is to nourish lives, helping to make people's lives healthier, easier and richer, whether they are our customers or our employees." Headquartered in Minneapolis, USA, General Mills had its initiation in South Africa in 2002, when it acquired the Pillsbury Company. Historically, Pillsbury entered South Africa in 1993 through a joint venture with Food Corporation, which saw frozen vegetables brought into the country. Then in 1995, its Bakeries and Foodservice business was launched, introducing the Pillsbury brand to the local market. A local manufacturing facility was established in 1998 and in 2002, Pillsbury South Africa became the fully- fledged South African arm of General Mills. Today, the company operates one facility on the Linbro Business Park in the Wendywood region of South Africa, from where it manufactures and distributes over 100 different products. Many of these brands are instantly recognisable- in addition to Pillsbury, the site markets Old El Paso, Big T burger products and Häagen- Dazs ice cream. Leathwhite is happy for his business to be classified under General Mills' Latin American region, as he feels South Africa faces similar challenges to those encountered in South America. " I feel that the socio- economic climate is comparable," he says. " Both here and in South America we have encountered labour unrest and high inflation, which September / October 09 www. bus- ex. com 63 success The South African arm of General Mills has a reputation for quality among its six million customers- a figure which looks set to keep on growing. Andrew Pelis talked to managing director Craig Leathwhite about the company's success and its future expansion plans