Spending his earliest years on his grandfather’s dairy farm in Northern Ontario, dairy has always had a special place in the heart of Andre St Amour, St. Hyacinthe Plant Manager for General Mills.
Working on his family’s farm until he began studying at the University of Western Ontario, it’s not a surprise that Andre has dedicated over 30 years of his career to the food industry, 28 years of which with General Mills brands including Pillsbury and Green Giant.
“I remember having to deliver the fresh cream to the co-op every morning,” recalls Andre. “You can take the boy away from the farm, but you can’t take the farm away from the boy, farming is in my blood.”
Andre cherishes this continued connection to the land. Speaking with him, it’s obvious that Andre is passionate about food.
“I think food is so exciting!” he says. “Food is so visible and vibrant. It has real purpose: it provides nutrition, it’s something we enjoy as a family, it connects us to farmers and to the land!” he notes. “I look at our product portfolio here, like Liberté, it’s such a great brand, you get excited about that.”
With over 30 years in the industry, Andre knows the food industry is ever changing. He sees these changes in consumer trends as an exciting challenge.
“In the past, the food industry used to create the categories and consumers would accept that, but now, consumers are driving change. They are demanding different things and we’re having to adapt to those new needs,” he added.
This requires the dairy industry to become much more agile. It demands efficient change management to be on trend as quickly as possible and to meet consumer demands.
As plant manager, Andre values spending as much time as he can on the shop floor with his employees. He works to inspire his team that zero is possible: zero human safety incidents, zero food safety incidences, zero waste. How does he do that?
“We do that with the 250 employees we have here on site, really get into not just their hands – we need their hands every day – but also their hearts and their minds so they become real proponents and advocates for the business. Then they can help us achieve zero. It’s about touching hearts and changing culture,” Andre explained.
Andre’s career path with General Mills has taken him across Canada, even dipping down to Texas for a couple of years. Despite the common conception that having a career with one company is a thing of the past, Andre believes if you’re flexible, there are still many opportunities for that in the dairy industry.
“If someone is willing and able to learn, is flexible, and performs well, there’s no reason why they can’t have a good, solid career in the dairy industry with one company. There’s enough room for growth and the options are endless.”