General Mills has developed a direct-to-consumer online channel, called Gluten Freely, that’s based on Microsoft’s Windows Azure platform. The Web site is designed to help consumers who have Celiac disease or are sensitive to gluten—a protein naturally found in certain grains—locate and shop for gluten-free foods. The site provides diet and health information.

“We needed to build an e-commerce solution without incurring the costs and maintenance of a traditional on-premises platform,” Dom Alcocer, marketing manager at General Mills, said in a statement. “Gluten Freely was brought to market about twice as fast and at about half the cost of what we were expecting from a traditional IT development.”

General Mills, one of the world’s leading food companies with operations in more than 100 countries, several years ago recognized the growing importance of meeting the needs of people who cannot tolerate gluten in their diet. It began making a range of gluten-free food products in 2008. The Minneapolis-based company wanted to create a way to direct its products and information to the public while avoiding having to invest in traditional hardware and software resources.

By deploying Windows Azure as a platform, the company was able to create an online channel in the cloud. To date, General Mills says it has seen “substantial” site traffic, sales, consumer enthusiasm and positive social media feedback.

“General Mills is excelling at developing innovative business models,” Mark Hindsbo, vice president U.S. Developer and Platform Evangelism at Microsoft, said in a statement.




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