General Mills has expanded it successful Worldwide Innovation Network (G-WIN) open innovation program to include emerging digital marketing technologies with the launch of G-WIN Digital. Through G-WIN Digital, the company seeks to connect with partners that have digital marketing technologies focusing on video, social, mobile and gaming.

G-WIN Digital leverages the benefits of open innovation to discover, pilot and share emerging digital marketing technologies with General Mills’portfolio of iconic brands.

G-WIN has already helped General Mills with products many consumers probably take for granted. Case in point: Fiber One 90-Calorie Brownies. While at-home bakers have used General Mills brands for decades, there’s a big difference between producing flour, baking mixes and pre-made, refrigerated dough and producing a shelf-stable, ready-to-eat baked good.

“This was the challenge faced by our snacks division when it wanted to add a tasty, wholesome brownie to the line of Fiber One products,” says Jeff Bellairs, G-WIN senior director. “While the Fiber One team created the idea and concept, and our R&D department had the expertise to make the perfect dough for this brownie, the teams realized they didn’t have the existing internal expertise and baking manufacturing capabilities to bake it.”

It was time to enlist an open innovation partner to save time and reduce risk in developing Fiber One 90-Calorie Brownies. “We found that partner in Hearthside Food Solutions, a company that General Mills has worked with for years on other product innovations,” adds Bellairs. “Hearthside had the baking experience, technical know-how and pilot plant facilities needed to bring the brownies to full-scale production.”

All of these factors contributed to a smooth startup, while maximizing efficiency in terms of time and General Mills’ investment. By collaborating with an open innovation partner, the Snacks division estimates it saved up to 12 months in terms of taking the product from concept to launch. In addition, Hearthside has shared in the marketplace success of the brownies with a sizeable increase in its business with General Mills in 2011.