MINNEAPOLIS — General Mills on Sept. 18 reported its earnings in the first quarter of its fiscal 2020 year, in which profits were up 33%, operating profit grew 10% but net sales fell 2%. Sales for its pet segment, which is comprised of the Blue Buffalo Co. brand, grew 7.1% from the first quarter of 2018 to $368 million.

“Our first-quarter net sales performance included encouraging improvement in North America Retail and strong growth in pet, driven by good innovation and effective brand-building investment,” said Jeff Harmening, General Mills’ chairman and CEO.

Blue Buffalo’s strong sales increase in the Food Drug and Mass (FDM) retail channel, representing more than 50% growth from year ago sales, drove overall growth for the pet segment, Harmening said. Operating profit for Blue Buffalo totaled $81 million, a whopping 458% increase from year-ago.

“Importantly, retail sales for food, drug and mass customers who have carried Blue more than 12 months were up 50% versus last year,” Harmening added.

Unfortunately, as the company shifts focus toward FDM, the pet specialty channel declined by double-digits.

“This is an important channel for BLUE and we continue to support the channel through unique programs and innovation,” Harmening said, adding that Blue Buffalo will officially release its long-awaited Carnivora brand next quarter, which will be sold exclusively in the pet specialty retail space.

Despite dragging its feet in pet specialty, the Blue Buffalo brand continues to gain market share in FDM and online. E-commerce sales for the pet food brand were up more than 20% in the first quarter. Harmening said he expects e-commerce growth to continue at 8 to 10% throughout fiscal 2020.

Harmening also commented on its pet segment leadership following announcement of Billy Bishop’s new position and the addition of Bethany Quam, previously president of the General Mill’s Europe and Australia segment. Bishop’s new title will be founder and brand advisor as he takes on a more broad-scope role, and Quam will step in to handle day-to-day management of the pet segment.

“We remain confident in this business and are excited about the growth prospects ahead,” Harmening said.

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