When General Mills acquired Gorton’s, Kinney joined the company and led its consumer food operations and eventually rose through the ranks to become CEO. General Mills, based in Minneapolis, said its sales under Kinney’s leadership grew from $1 billion to $5 billion, and the number of employees grew from 26,000 to 71,000.
General Mills sold Gorton’s in 1995, but the brand remains a popular food choice thanks to Kinney’s innovation.
“During his tenure with Gorton’s he was credited with leading the company through a period of significant growth. While I wouldn’t say he invented the fish stick, he certainly led Gorton’s during a period of time when the fish stick became an established convenience food for consumers in the U.S.,” said Paul Coz, vice president of human resources Gorton’s Seafoods.
Kinney grew up in Pittsfield, Maine, graduated from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, and started a canning business called North Atlantic Packing Co. that grew out of his experience seeing lobster fishermen discarding crabs. He offered the fishermen a penny for each crab and started a canning business.
“Bob Kinney was a transformational leader for General Mills who had a tremendous impact on our company,” said Ken Powell, the company’s current chairman and CEO. “Not only was he successful in business, but also, more importantly, he was both respected and loved by colleagues and peers.”