Fellow Profile

Carla Vernon

  • Position: 
    Vice President and Business Unit Director, Snacks
  • Organization: 
    General Mills
  • Initiative: 
    Henry Crown Fellowship Program (HCFP)


Carla is a Vice President and Business Unit Director in the Snacks Operating Unit at General Mills. In this role she is the General Manager of a $1.5 Billion portfolio of snack brands including Nature Valley, LÄRABAR, FiberOne, and Cascadian Farm. Known as a turnaround specialist and a visionary leader, Carla has restored growth and category leadership to a wide cross-section of billion dollar businesses including Yoplait, Nature Valley, and Cheerios. Carla's wins include restoring Nature Valley Crunchy to growth after 36 months of declines; driving the Yoplait to its highest levels of market share growth in five years; securing category leadership for a $1.5 Billion portfolio of cereal brands including Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Chex, and Lucky Charms. Carla also spearheaded the effort to make significant reductions in the amount of sugar in Big G kid cereals. Beyond General Mills, Carla serves on the National Board of Directors for the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the Advisory Board for the Wisconsin School of Business's Center for Brand and Product Management. Carla loves to volunteer at her church and her children's school. Prior to joining General Mills, Carla worked for U.S. Senator Carol Moseley-Braun and The Nature Conservancy. Carla received her BA from Princeton University and an MBA from the University of Texas, Austin (as a Consortium Fellow). She is a 2009 Henry Crown Fellow of The Aspen Institute and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.

Leadership Project: Project Mustard Seed

In challenging economic times, American schools often have to reduce funding for critical items such as teachers, meal programs, elective courses, school equipment, and transportation. To address this problem, many major corporations like General Mills, Campbell's Soup, Target, Tyson, Coca-Cola, and Staples have established "cause marketing" programs designed to donate money directly to schools in exchange for some form of "proof of purchase", with the hope that these programs will also increase loyalty to the companies/brands. Carla Vernón has used her position at General Mills to increase awareness of top education-related cause marketing programs, provide a simple and enduring guide to explain participation requirements of top programs and to develop and implement strategy to increase participation among under-resourced schools. She's named this Project Mustard Seed and has developed a plan to advance parental involvement (particularly Spanish-speaking parents) in under-resourced schools through cause-marketing. Project Mustard Seed is helping build significant infrastructure and campaign to introduce the largest cause-marketing program (Box Tops for Education) to Spanish speaking participants. Her efforts have generated $1.8 Million for TV support on Univision; provided 17 Million bilingual packaging impressions on cereal boxes to drive awareness of boxtops4education.com/Español; gained first 7,500 Facebook Fans of Box Tops for Education - Español; and launched Promotora's program ("Avon Lady" model) to activate grassroots program volunteers. The initial launch is focused on three Spanish-dominant metro markets (LA, Chicago, Houston). Once fine-tuned, the program will be shared with other education based loyalty programs, such as Target, Office Depot, and Tyson.

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