Categories Consumer, Earnings Call Transcripts

General Mills Inc. (GIS) Q3 2021 Earnings Call Transcript

GIS Earnings Call - Final Transcript

General Mills Inc.  (NYSE: GIS) Q3 2021 earnings call dated Mar. 24, 2021

Corporate Participants:

Jeff Siemon — Vice President, Investor Relations

Jeffrey L. Harmening — Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Kofi Bruce — Chief Financial Officer

Bethany C. Quam — Group President, Pet

Jonathon J. Nudi — Group President, North America Retail

Analysts:

Andrew Lazar — Barclays — Analyst

Ken Goldman — J.P. Morgan — Analyst

Chris Growe — Stifel — Analyst

Michael Lavery — Piper Sandler — Analyst

Robert Moskow — Credit Suisse — Analyst

Jason English — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

Faiza Alwy — Deutsche Bank — Analyst

Nik Modi — RBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Jonathan Feeney — Consumer Edge — Analyst

Laurent Grandet — Guggenheim — Analyst

David Palmer — Evercore ISI — Analyst

Presentation:

Operator

Greetings and welcome to the fiscal 2021 Q3 earnings call. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to turn the conference over to Jeff Siemon, VP of Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Jeff Siemon — Vice President, Investor Relations

Thanks Jennifer, and good morning to everyone. On behalf of my colleagues at General Mills, thanks for joining us. We are looking forward to have our live Q&A session on our third quarter results. Hope everyone had a chance to review our press release, listen to our prepared remarks and view our presentation materials, which were made available this morning on our Investor Relations site.

Also refer to the press release we issued yesterday, announcing our proposed sale of our European Yoplait operations to Sodiaal. I’ll just note that in regard to that transaction, we have a memorandum of understanding and that is still subject to appropriate labor consultations, regulatory filings and other customary closing conditions. And we expect to close the proposed transaction by the end of the calendar year.

Furthermore, it’s important to note that in our Q&A session today, we may make forward-looking statements that are based on management’s current views and assumptions, including facts and assumptions related to the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our results in fiscal ’21. Please refer to this morning’s press release for factors that could impact our forward-looking statements and for reconciliations of non-GAAP information which may be discussed on today’s call.

I’m here virtually with Jeff Harmening, our Chairman and CEO; Kofi Bruce, our CFO; Bethany Quam, Group President for our Pet segment; and Jon Nudi, Group President for North America Retail. We’re holding this call from different locations, so hopefully technology cooperates and everything goes smoothly.

And with that, we can get into the first question. Jennifer, you can get us started.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from the line of Andrew Lazar with Barclays. Please proceed with your question.

Andrew Lazar — Barclays — Analyst

Good morning, everybody, and thanks for the question.

Jeffrey L. Harmening — Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Andrew.

Andrew Lazar — Barclays — Analyst

I think I’d like to stick with the two-year growth CAGR methodology that you kind of laid out and discussed in the prepared remarks. Thinking about it that way, it would imply fiscal 4Q organic sales growth that would look to be roughly in line with what you reported in fiscal 3Q, again on a two-year basis. And I realize some of this is likely a bit of a shift of inventory refill from that you expected in 3Q into 4Q. But it would seem to suggest you believe sales growth — the sales growth deceleration, as reopening occurs, is likely to be maybe slower than many currently expect. So I’m just trying to get a sense if that’s a fair characterization of your thinking at this juncture. And if it is, sort of what’s informing that viewpoint? Thank you.

Jeffrey L. Harmening — Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Thank you, Andrew. This is Jeff Harmening. You do have that — you have that exactly right. As we look at the third quarter of this year, demand was high all over the world, including the US, fueled by clearly the pandemic, as well as stimulus spending, and in addition to that, some weather-related events. So, as we look at Q4, we really believe that our sales, both in terms of pounds and pricing, is going to be higher than it was pre-pandemic, and we’re seeing that in the first couple of weeks of the month, and we’re confident the consumer behaviors aren’t changing as quickly as some would think. And what fuels that, Andrew, is really, as you look at the last year, if you look at 2020, our foodservice business in general in the US, the industry declined about 25%. And of that, about 25% was quick service restaurants, schools and healthcare. And we’ve seen quick service restaurants bounce back and school are gradually getting online, as is healthcare, so a lot of bounce back relatively quickly. Another 25% of that decline was related to casual dining, and that’s going to take longer to come back. And then, finally, about half of the decline we’ve seen over the last year in away-from-home eating is really driven by travel, leisure, business and industry, think canteens at places of work. And clearly, that’s going to take a longer term to come back, if it ever does at all, because we’re not going to work the same way. We’re going to be working at home a little more than ever before. People want flexible schedules. While consumers may be making vacation plans now more than they have, business people are not going to be traveling as much because technology has caught up and we realized we can do a lot of things remotely. And so, we have — what fuels our belief in the fourth quarter and what we’re confident is, there’s not an inventory buildup, as moving will be better than what some expected, based on what we’ve seen over the past year and kind of what we see in the first few weeks of this month, this quarter.

Andrew Lazar — Barclays — Analyst

Great. Thanks very much. I’ll leave it there.

Jeffrey L. Harmening — Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Ken Goldman with J.P. Morgan. Please proceed with your question.

Ken Goldman — J.P. Morgan — Analyst

Hi, thank you. Two from me. First, how should we think about your appetite for being aggressive on share repo [Phonetic]? Just looking back prior to Buff deal, there were some years the Company spent upwards of $1.7 billion on buyback. So should we think this level is at least within the realm of possibilities? Or do you want to keep a little more dry powder around? That’s my first one.

Kofi Bruce — Chief Financial Officer

Sure. Ken, this is Kofi. Good morning. Thanks for the question. Look, I think we are absolutely in a position where we ended the quarter with a really strong balance sheet, our leverage ratio at 2.8 times net debt to EBITDA, which means that we’ve continued to make great progress against our capital goals. I expect we will restore our full capacity to use all of our levers of cash return. And I think the signal that I think was important is that we’ve already started. So, while I can’t commit to anything beyond what we’ve done, we continue to have the flexibility to act and use our balance sheet to the extent that — the full extent of our capital allocation policy. And I think as a reminder, share purchase is the last of those. So, that is where we would look to manage leverage and steer any excess free cash flow.

Ken Goldman — J.P. Morgan — Analyst

Thank you for that. And then, Bethany, within broader pet food, the refrigerated [Indecipherable] it’s small, but it’s growing quickly, not really showing a lot of signs of slowing down, except for some supply chain issues. Has Blue Buffalo’s appetite to break into this subcategory changed at all? Or is it still sort of a wait and see attitude? It’s not necessarily what you said, but some of your predecessors may have kind of implied in talking about it.

Bethany C. Quam — Group President, Pet

Hi, thanks for the question. What we really have seen is that pet parents throughout this pandemic have really wanted to continue to offer their pets different forms. So you’re talking about different forms here. So we’ve seen mixing between kibble and then wet food from cans — our wet business is performing incredibly well — as well as fresh. It’s still a very small part of the category, but the trend is pet parents continuing to mix different kinds of food. So we’ll continue to look at all those different areas and continue to take the Blue Buffalo master brand where we think pet parents want to see it.

Ken Goldman — J.P. Morgan — Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Chris Growe with Stifel. Please proceed with your question.

Chris Growe — Stifel — Analyst

Hi, good morning.

Jeffrey L. Harmening — Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Chris.

Chris Growe — Stifel — Analyst

[Speech Overlap] had a question for you on — to start first with the — with cost inflation and to better understand kind of the moving pieces in the gross margin, again, it’s very clear about the inflation and there were some costs to secure incremental capacity. So just to understand a couple of simple things, was weather a factor at all in the gross margin for you this quarter? And then, I also just want to understand like the rate of inflation and then how fourth quarter inflation might look in relation to the third quarter.

Kofi Bruce — Chief Financial Officer

Sure, Chris, I’ll be happy to address your question. Thanks for asking. So, as you think about the other factors, certainly as you — as we flagged, there are higher costs to operate in this higher demand environment. And I will tell you that part of the cost in our logistics network costs have gone up in relation to responding to the high demand environment. Specifically, as we’re operating in an environment where we need to open new lanes of freight to reach our external supply capacity but also to reposition within the network, which is where we’ve seen some incremental costs as related to the weather in the quarter. And as we get to Q4, while we’re not giving guidance on Q4 inflation, I think it’s important to note, for the full year, we are still expecting about 3% inflation. And the way I’d characterize it is, our expectations at the beginning of the year were 3%, and we are rounding up to about 3%, and we are in a position now where we will be rounding out to about 3% inflation. And I think the critical thing for us is, we’re taking the opportunity to act with all of our SRM and our HMM levers to set ourselves up to in anticipation of higher inflation as we step into F22.

Chris Growe — Stifel — Analyst

Okay, thank you for that. And then, I had a separate question, if I could, on Pet, so perhaps for Bethany. But just in relation to — you had some incremental promotional costs around Tastefuls, the launch of that. Did that continue? Do you see a step-up — sort of increase in promotional spending for that business? And then, that’s also a division where there has been higher cost. Is that where we could see some pricing coming through? Has that come through at all in the industry? Not looking for a forward commentary there, but have you seen that yet in the industry?

Bethany C. Quam — Group President, Pet

Well, starting with the support [Phonetic], we’re launching a new business. And so, you have cost to do that, and so we see ourselves spending at a rate that’s right for the category. And again, we can work within the entire portfolio. So, those are launch costs that we’re talking right now. In terms of premiumization, that is absolutely continuing in every part of the category. So the premium cost per pound on wet cat food, definitely higher than what you see in dry. But every part of the category continued to premiumization on a cost per pound basis.

Jeff Siemon — Vice President, Investor Relations

And Chris, this is Jeff Siemon. I’d just add to the original question about cost in the quarter, I just note that on a year-to-date basis, the Pet segment has had about a little over 24% margin versus 22.5% last year. So, while the quarter was — maybe there was a little bit of incremental cost, we still feel very good about where we are year-to-date for that business from a margin and a growth standpoint.

Chris Growe — Stifel — Analyst

Okay, thank you for that, and appreciate it.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Michael Lavery with Sandler Piper [Phonetic]. Please proceed with your question.

Michael Lavery — Piper Sandler — Analyst

Thank you. Good morning.

Jeffrey L. Harmening — Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Kofi Bruce — Chief Financial Officer

Good morning.

Michael Lavery — Piper Sandler — Analyst

Just following up on the Pet segment, you’ve had some accelerating volume growth over the course of the year. Can you give a sense of how much of that is driven from pipeline fill behind new launches versus just kind of a more run rate type momentum?

Bethany C. Quam — Group President, Pet

Yeah, thanks for the question. So, we continue to see the movement of the business accelerate. And so, in Q2, we had talked a little bit about movement when we had reported 18% sales being a little bit ahead of our inventory. But our movement accelerated as we went into Q3. And so, we feel pretty good about the levels of inventory at this point.

Michael Lavery — Piper Sandler — Analyst

Okay, great. And then, just following up on the inflation question, looking ahead a little bit, can you give a sense of how much you’re positioning yourself for ’22? And just trying to get a sense of how much you think the current kind of run in prices might be sticky versus waiting to take some positions if it may come back. What’s your thinking on that at a high level?

Kofi Bruce — Chief Financial Officer

Well, certainly at a high level, we are preparing for higher inflation, and I don’t want to get too far ahead. We’ll come back and talk to you in Q4 about F22 inflation expectations. But I will just reiterate, we are taking actions on the basis of that preparation, specifically around our HMM and our strategic revenue management plans and using all of the levers of strategic revenue management.

Michael Lavery — Piper Sandler — Analyst

Okay, great. Thanks so much.

Kofi Bruce — Chief Financial Officer

You bet.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Robert Moskow with Credit Suisse. Please proceed with your question.

Robert Moskow — Credit Suisse — Analyst

Hi, Kofi and Jeff. I think I’m going to get the same answer as Michael just got, but inflation is accelerating higher than you thought, and I know you have multiple levers to offset it. But within SRM, I think list price increases are one of those levers. So, is it fair to say that, that will have to be utilized more than originally contemplated? And look, a lot of retailers are talking about inflation right now. A lot of your competitors are talking about inflation. Is it fair to say that there is more willingness to pass that through? I know it’s never easy. But it’s not just you who is facing the inflation.

Jeffrey L. Harmening — Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

It’s Jeff. Just let me take that question because if you get the same answer, then at least you get it from a different person. So, I will start by saying that inflation is very broad based. It’s actually global. So, we’re seeing it across the globe. We’re seeing inflation, and it’s broad based across commodities, across logistics, across things like aluminum and steel. And so, whenever you see this kind of broad-based inflation and it’s global, that’s an environment where you’re going to realize net pricing. And we certainly go to HMM first. But in this kind of environment, just like a few years ago when we saw the same thing — our retailers are seeing it, our competitors are seeing it, and we’re seeing it. And so, we will realize pricing. We’ll also just — we will use all of the tools, and that includes loss [Phonetic] pricing, whether it’s loss [Phonetic] pricing, it is price pack architecture against how manage trade, and then finally, price and mix. We’ll need to use all those levers. And when it comes to pricing, you go from the macro to the micro pretty fast. And so, the levers we pull certainly depend on category and they should depend on geography. And so, I will — we’ll use all those — we’ll use all the levers at our disposal, and we’ll begin that process here in the fourth quarter.

Kofi Bruce — Chief Financial Officer

And let me just add for additional context, a reminder that our first lever is Holistic Margin Management, so our cost of goods sold productivity, which has been averaging about 4% annually. So we’re not relying just on SRM to address the issue. The first 4 points or so, we would expect to get through gross margin productivity.

Robert Moskow — Credit Suisse — Analyst

Okay. I’ll leave it there. Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Jason English with Goldman Sachs. Please proceed with your question.

Jason English — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

Hey, good morning, folks. Thank you for…

Jeffrey L. Harmening — Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Jason English — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

I guess, I was going to keep coming back at sort of the same point of question, and that’s really just trying to understand the margins here. Kofi, I think, clearly great margins this quarter, and I think you’re guiding for profit or margins to actually be below fiscal ’19 levels in the fourth quarter, so below pre-COVID. And I’m trying to wrap my head around it. You’re talking about HMM savings exceeding inflation. So, for the year, you’re actually net deflation on those two. You’ve got phenomenal volume leverage, huge pricing rolling through the best pricing in years. What is the other offset? You stack those up right there and I would expect meaningful margin expansion for the year, not profit actually falling below pre-COVID. What are the other offsets? Can you help us quantify them? And which of those offsets may be transitory and related to COVID with costs falling out as we look over the next, say, 12 to 24 months?

Kofi Bruce — Chief Financial Officer

Sure. So let me let me speak to some of the key drivers here. Foundationally, after those, you need to look at the higher operating costs in this environment related to us securing additional capacity from external supply chain. And with that, the logistics costs associated with operating in that environment puts us in a position where we are securing more lanes for freight to support that external capacity at higher spot market rates, which we would note that we’re seeing about mid-single digit inflation in freight in this environment. So, as we’re exposed to the spot markets on those external supply chain lanes, the cost of delivering to customers and distribution centers is higher. So, those two factors, I would expect, to be largely linked to the demand environment. And as supply and demand come more into balance, as our inventory levels in the system come more into balance, I would expect those costs to abate. And obviously, we’re lapping a tremendously strong Q4 where a fair amount of leverage was driven just in part because of the inventory in the system that both us and the retailers used to draw down to service the demand.

Jason English — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

That’s really helpful. Is there any way to quantify some of those things like the transitory logistics cost that can fall away, just so, as we look to tackle our model, we’ve got some of the right puts and takes that we’re contemplating?

Kofi Bruce — Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. I don’t want to get too specific on Q4. But I think it’s fair to say that those two — as you think about the offsets to some of the key drivers and specifically leverage, those are more than sufficient to offset some of the leverage benefits we expect to see this year.

Jason English — Goldman Sachs — Analyst

Okay, thank you.

Kofi Bruce — Chief Financial Officer

You bet.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Faiza Alwy with Deutsche Bank. Please proceed with your question.

Faiza Alwy — Deutsche Bank — Analyst

Yes, hi, good morning. So, I guess, I wanted to follow up on Andrew’s question, and that was — but I wanted to see if you could talk about how you think consumption patterns will trend from here, and within that, specifically how you think about the snack bar category, which is one of your global platforms. But, Jeff, you talked about how you don’t expect consumer habits to change. So, I’m curious how you’re thinking about the recovery in that category. The overall category is fragmented, and there are many different segments. So, just wondering if you could share your aspirations around how you would like to play in the overall category.

Jeffrey L. Harmening — Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, so let me make — thanks for the question. Let me make a clarifying point. What we see happening is that demand will be higher in the near future than it was pre-pandemic. Certainly, as people return to eating out and people are going to schools, we’ll see a reversion of some of that volume back to where it was before, just not all the way back. So, I would envision an environment where demand is not as high as it is today in at-home eating, but it’s higher than it was pre-pandemic. And I think some investors and some analysts feel that volume is just going to snap back to the way it was before the pandemic. And what we’ve seen — outside of the US, what we’re currently seeing in our current channels will lead us to believe that any return to normal will be more elongated and that return to normal will eventually be different. So, as we see that, the same would hold true of our bars category. And I’ll give a little highlight — high-level commentary, and then Jon Nudi may want to weigh in. In bars, because it really is energy on the go, the fact that the category has been down recently is because people have not been on the go as much. As people start to get out a little bit more, we’ve seen the category improve a little bit. In fact, I’m really pleased with our progress in terms of share. We’re competing effectively all over the world in the bars category. That would be the US, as well as Europe, as well as Australia. And so, we’re starting to see that category return a little bit, and we’ve been competing quite effectively in it.

Jon, do you have any other — anything you want to add to that?

Jonathon J. Nudi — Group President, North America Retail

You really hit it, Jeff, on the on-the-go nature of the categories. A tough time with the grain snacks, down high-single digits year-to-date. Performance bars is down double digits. So again, that’s been the toughest to play. As Jeff mentioned, we’ve been really focused. In fact, one of the things I’m proud of is that we’re actually growing share in total bars. As many of you remember, we’ve been struggling in this category for the last few years. And our turnarounds were really led [Phonetic] by Nature Valley, our biggest brand. We’ve got some really strong marketing on air, some great news around recyclable wrapper that just rolled out, as well as the number one launching in the category, which is [Indecipherable]. So, we feel good about how we’re performing. And as Jeff mentioned, when we get back to a more normal time, these categories will bounce back to growth.

Faiza Alwy — Deutsche Bank — Analyst

Great. And then, just I wanted to also take advantage of Bethany being on the call. And Bethany, I was hoping you could give us a little bit more color on the treats side of the business. Early on, there was a view that as Blue Buffalo moves into FDM, that is the channel where treats are more prevalent. And I think it’s been a bit disappointing relative to everything else that Blue has done. So I’m curious if you have any thoughts on the long-term potential of the treats business and whether there is sort of more innovation, more marketing, anymore work you can do or that you think needs to be done around that side of the business.

Bethany C. Quam — Group President, Pet

Yeah. Thanks. You’re absolutely correct, Faiza. As you get exposed into the food, drug, mass channel, there is more treats that are sold in that channel. Blue Buffalo definitely resonates with pet parents in terms of trading. You’ll see here in the four quarter, we are launching a new innovation behind bones, and so that is the opportunity for pet parents to clean — to feed a bone alternative, crunchy biscuits that meets the true Blue promise. And so, we are continuing to do well in the treats category, but we know we can do better. And so, we have both innovation launching as well as we’re doing some price pack architecture work as well. And so, we’re able to merchandise. If you look at the pet category, the treats segment is obviously more responsive to merchandising than your food segment. And so, if you look in our remarks today, we have a picture of how the whole portfolio will show up now. And so, when we merchandise, retailers are able to offer the new bone, our sticks, our sizzlers, and we really cover all different treat types. So, we’re continuing to press merchandise. We also are starting to do some different types of marketing behind treatable moments. And so, we are pushing on all areas to continue to drive that. It’s a huge category. We’ve got growth. We’d like to have a higher share of it.

Faiza Alwy — Deutsche Bank — Analyst

Great, thank you so much.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Nik Modi with RBC Capital Markets. Please proceed with your question.

Nik Modi — RBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Good morning, everyone.

Jeffrey L. Harmening — Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Nik.

Nik Modi — RBC Capital Markets — Analyst

So, I just wanted to ask about new items. My understanding is, General Mills is going to be pretty active in this area in 2021. And just within a construct in the backdrop of SKU rationalization happening at retail, I just wanted to kind of understand how that kind of is going to work as you look to really get all products onto the shelf. And then, I just have a quick follow-up.

Jeffrey L. Harmening — Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Jon, do you want to take that?

Jonathon J. Nudi — Group President, North America Retail

Yes, sure. So obviously, there’s some SKU rationalization going on, really driven by click and collect and retail is really optimizing the shelf space. At the same time, consumers are always looking for new products and new innovation. I think retailers are very engaged by that as well. So in fiscal ’21, our new products have done quite well. In cereal, we’ve got three of the top 3 launches in the category. [Indecipherable] we’ve got three of the top 4 launches and we’ve got a great track record, and that track record really helps us selling new products. So the bar is higher, and we’ve got to have good items, we’ve got to perform, and we really have a track record of doing that, which will help us as we place new items in the coming year. The other thing we’re actually looking at is our share distribution is up overall and in our key categories as well. And again, the new products really helped us with that. So, as summer is going to approach, we’re really excited about the plans we have coming for fiscal ’22 as well, which we will share as we get closer to the end of the year.

Nik Modi — RBC Capital Markets — Analyst

And Jon, just as we think about SKU rationalization and how retailers prioritize which brands they have on the shelf, would you expect additional space kind of over the next 12 months as a result of some of those changes?

Jonathon J. Nudi — Group President, North America Retail

Well, I think, Nik, obviously, the highest turn SKUs are getting more shelf space right now as they really are using the shelf for bricks and mortar shopping, as well as their click and collect operations. So, our top SKUs continue to grow shelf space, and that’s a really good thing for us. And then, from and innovation standpoint, again, I think that retailers are looking for a track record of success. So, as we’ve proven that we can do that, I think, they are looking to our items first. I think in some cases, the smaller companies that are coming in, where a few years ago, retailers were jumping over [Phonetic] those items, it’s a tougher environment for that right now. So, I think for manufacturers that have big brands that turn well, it’s a good time with shelf. And I think new products are really all about how exciting you can get retailers and consumers about those items and building a track record to deliver. And again, we’ve been able to do that more recently.

Nik Modi — RBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Excellent. Thank you. I’ll pass it on.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Jonathan Feeney with Consumer Edge. Please proceed with your question.

Jonathan Feeney — Consumer Edge — Analyst

Good morning, and thanks. I’ve looked at — given a clearly — I think you touched on this a little bit before, but given a clear rise in visible costs here, I’m a little surprised there is not more dedicated effort to raise pricing. Is this something that’s like just tactical inside your organization. You’re just going to let it right here? Or is this a response to discounting and private label growth or fear about that in the marketplace? Because you would look at the — you would look at your input costs and everything that’s in the headlines, and this would — this feels like a 2006 type environment, and yet we’re not seeing that at least yet on the pricing front.

Jeffrey L. Harmening — Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Hey, Jon — go ahead, Kofi.

Kofi Bruce — Chief Financial Officer

No, hey, Jon. I think just to answer your question, we certainly are responding right now on the expectation that inflation is going to be higher. As Jeff referenced earlier, we’re seeing it broad based. We’re seeing it global. And we’re, frankly in all of our businesses, looking hard at that and using the SRM levers. So, I think you’ll see us acting. And in fact, in some of our businesses, we already have actions in market on the SRAM front. So, I would just sort of respectfully note that we’re moving right now.

Jonathan Feeney — Consumer Edge — Analyst

Okay. I recognize it’s a sensitive topic. Thanks very much.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of Laurent Grandet with Guggenheim. Please proceed with your question.

Laurent Grandet — Guggenheim — Analyst

Hey, good morning, everyone. I’d like to come back on the Pet segment. I’d like to understand better the dynamics in price/mix as it was negative in the quarter. Third quarter, you launched some premium wet and treats, but also where — [Indecipherable] said and you grew in the pet specialty for the first time, which probably asked for premium price. So I’d like to understand better what was driving this negative in the price/mix in the quarter and how we should think about price/mix in that segment going forward. Thank you.

Bethany C. Quam — Group President, Pet

Again, thanks for the question. So, for the nine months of the year, our sales are up 13% and our profits up 22%. So we feel really good about how we’re able to drive the business in the quarter. Our mix can vary depending on channel, and so as we continue to build out — this is a really young business in some channels. And so, as we are building out [Technical Issues] we didn’t have a variance from the channel mix but also the product mix. And so, we invested behind the different parts of the business. I feel good about the long-term price/mix. Again, what’s driving the Pet category is premiumization. Blue Buffalo is solely in that part, and we will continue to ensure that we have the right price/mix, and it can vary by quarter, by channel, by product mix.

Jeff Siemon — Vice President, Investor Relations

Hi, Laurent, this is Jeff Siemon. I’d just add that as a reminder to everyone, especially in the first half of the year, we are comparing against the first half last year where we were still expanding our Wilderness line more broadly into food, drug and mass. And so, that is a very high price/mix business, and so the comparison was probably a headwind through the first half, maybe a little bit into the back half. As we go forward, right now, fully comped all that expansion. And Bethany said, a lot of the innovation and news you’re seeing is in the wet and the treats segments, which are certainly mix positive. So we feel good about where we go from here.

Laurent Grandet — Guggenheim — Analyst

Thanks. My second question, a completely different topic. It’s about Yoplait in Canada. Not much visibility on the business there. Could you maybe give us some colors as to, should we think about the same type of profitability in Canada that you’ve got in the US? And also, in terms of growth, is it growing faster? I’d like to have a bit more color on the Yoplait Canada, Please. Thanks.

Jeffrey L. Harmening — Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, Laurent, we have a good market position in Canada. Why don’t I have Jon Nudi provide some of the commentary on that business?

Jonathon J. Nudi — Group President, North America Retail

Yeah. Hey, Lauren. We really like our business in Canada, yogurt business. It’s about a third of our whole business in Canada. And actually a bigger business for us is Liberte. So it’s about 60% of our yogurt business in Canada versus 40% for Yoplait. And one of the things we love is Liberte is the leading Greek yogurt in Canada. So, while we, a few years back, didn’t do so well [Indecipherable] in US, we did very well in Canada, and a result, have a strong market share position in the market. So we’ll [Indecipherable] to more as we move forward, and we’ll probably highlight some of the new products and other things that we have coming, but we really like our business is performing well in Canada as we speak.

Laurent Grandet — Guggenheim — Analyst

Thank you. I’ll pass it on. Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from the line of David Palmer with Evercore ISI. Please proceed with your question.

David Palmer — Evercore ISI — Analyst

Thanks. As you know, in the US, there are some markets that are reopening faster than others, Texas and Florida. I’m wondering as you look at some of those micro examples, what sort of two-year trends are you seeing, and maybe even within that, some insights that you’re garnering about the reopen and the impact on your individual categories, retail, Pet and within retail. And I have a follow-up.

Jeffrey L. Harmening — Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

David, let me — this is Jeff. Let me provide a little background on the last year, and I’ll tell you a little bit of what we were seeing in the last month or so. But as we look at the past year, we’ve really seen the at-home trends across our markets, and some have been relatively more open than others, as you know. We’ve seen at-home trends have kind of accelerated across those markets, even in the markets that are more open. And there may be a couple of points less growth at home than those that have been relatively more closed, but we’re seeing pretty consistent performance across markets over the past year, whether it’s at-home or away-from-home consumption. There’s been a lot of talk on reopening in the last month. But the data gets really challenging because — especially because of the weather situation. So for example, Texas has opened up its away-from-home eating, but they had a huge winter snowstorm over the last month, which elevated demand quite a bit. And so, trying to pick them apart as pieces and the variables over the recent short term is really difficult to do. I don’t say that to try to hide anything. But if you look at it, you’ll see that at-home consumption in Texas will be up, which would be counterintuitive, but that’s because of the huge storm. So I think we’ll know a lot more at the end of this quarter once we’ve seen more. So right now, what I can tell you is, over the long term, over the last year, we’ve seen elevated demand across markets. Over the summer time, there are so many variables to play that really that is to pick them apart.

David Palmer — Evercore ISI — Analyst

Yeah. I sympathize with that. It feels like we’re going to be looking week by week from now on. But when we look at this last year, this fiscal ’21, and we look backward, what are some COVID-related costs, both direct and indirect? For example, you cited the supply chain demand and that the elevated trucking costs and that just basically freight and logistics being under such pressure that it’s essentially an indirect COVID-related cost. But is it — could you maybe sum that up in terms of gross margin headwinds that you will be lapping in fiscal ’22? And I’ll pass it on.

Kofi Bruce — Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, sure. And I’ll add to that list some of the other COVID-related costs such as some of the policy — leave policy dispensation we’ve given to our employees, obviously some of the security protocols and adjustments we’ve made in the early days. And I expect a good portion of those costs, as we work into a more normal environment, to sort of get back in line with normal trend. So I wouldn’t build off of a base of this cost on a full go-forward basis, as you think about F22, and demand potentially for at-home consumption being lower than this year but even still elevated above pre-COVID levels. I’m not going to quantify at this point, but we’ll talk more about that as we work our way into F22.

David Palmer — Evercore ISI — Analyst

Okay, thanks.

Jeff Siemon — Vice President, Investor Relations

Jennifer, I think that’s all the time we have. So I think we’ll go ahead and close up now. Thanks everyone for taking the time out and the interest. If you’ve follow-up questions, please reach out over the course of the next couple of days. And we hope everybody is staying safe and healthy. And we’ll talk again next quarter. Thank you.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

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Comments

  1. While consumers may be making vacation plans now more than they have, business people are not going to be traveling as much because technology has caught up and we realized we can do a lot of things remotely. NOT SURe how it’s going to affect retailers, but is no good news for travel sector 🙁

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