Visit to Yoplait/General Mills

Yop, the visit to Yoplait in Lyon was nothing less than delightful.

We finished our food engineering exam on Thursday morning and were in the train heading to Lyon a couple of hours later. We were definitely drained by the time we arrived to the city, but we were also eager to feast like the Lyonnais do at the local “Bouchons” (you know…priorities). We managed to secure a reservation for 20+ people and we were off to spoil our taste buds with mouthwatering dishes. Lyon is reputed to be the gastronomic heart of France, and I think we understood why.

I would be “Lyon” if I said it was easy waking up at 6:00 a.m. the next day, but we had to take the train to Vienne, a small town with a distinctive historic feel where Yoplait is situated. We were escorted by a Yoplait staff to the offices building where we were greeted with smiles, but most importantly coffee and Yoplait goodies. Shortly after, Cyril Chaudemanche- Principal scientist for the One Global Dairy division of General Mills- presented himself and the schedule for the day. General Mills is the mother company for more than a couple of dozen brands, including “Wheaties”, “Yoki”, “Nature Valley” and so many more within the cereal, snack, convenient meal, yogurt, ice-cream and pet food industries.

On the agenda was a thorough tour of the (huge) R&D pilot plant, where all the magic happens. And by magic, I mean innovation- which by the way represents 5% of the company’s net sales per year. Stepping into the pilot plant, a lot of us were fascinated to say the least. I remember thinking “so this is what a food innovator’s playground looks like and where all the innovation stems from”. From the cutting-edge industrial scale equipment and machinery, to the different raw materials, processes and protocols, Cyril was happy to answer our never-ending questions.

Next on the agenda was a group discussion with Pallavi Shriyan, a previous FIPDes student who now works at Yoplait in developing a new range of plant-based dairy alternatives. We had an endless amount of questions to ask her before our stomachs started rumbling. After lunch, we headed down to the Häagen-Dazs innovation kitchen where we got to indulge in new (top-secret) products that you may or may not see on supermarket shelves in the future. Everyone was super engaged in ranking and commenting on the sensory properties of different products and for the most of us, that was definitely the highlight of the visit. Leaving Yoplait, we could not help but someday imagine ourselves working in such an inspiring organization.

Paula Khati, Lebanon, Cohort 9


- Updated December 2019 -