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Ways General Mills, Clorox, Kellogg's Are Saving Big Money on Favorite Brands

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- To combat pesky inflation and intense price competition in the aisles of Walmart  and Target , major consumer products companies are finding ingenious ways to save money in their operations. The cost savings are starting to really add up.

Often branded with a geeky corporate title, the money saved from restructuring programs are being reinvested into improved marketing messages and packaging, as well as developing new innovations. Take for instance General Mills'  "Holistic Margin Management", or HMM, initiative. According to a May 14 blog post by General Mill's Public Relations Manager Bridget Christensen, this program is "one of General Mills' strategies to offset rising input costs." In fiscal year 2015 alone, this program "is targeting more than $400 million in cost of goods sold" savings noted General Mills Executive Vice President and CFO Donald Mulligan on the company's most recent earnings call. By 2020, General Mills is expecting to realize $4 billion in costs savings from HMM.

The key to bringing these lower costs to life? It starts, per Christenson's blog post, by "understanding the drivers of value in our business and to eliminate non-value added costs and activities." Some of the more creative actions by General Mills include: using 10 pasta shapes in Hamburger Helper as opposed to 20, reducing the size of several Helper packages by 20% while keeping the same amount of product in each box, and installing "scoop showers" in over 250 Haagen-Dazs stores to save water and money. "Scoop showers" are designed to maintain ice cream scooper cleanliness without running water for an extended period. All told, the annual savings from this scoop shower maneuver: $1 million.

In an emailed statement, Christensen provided further color on unique ways that General Mills is removing costs from its business.

In 2013, we continued to improve transportation efficiency by shifting loads from trucks to rail and optimizing trailer space and weight. By using trucks with lighter-weight cabs, we were able to place additional pallets on each truckload. These changes, combined with greater fuel efficiency, helped us save US$27.2 million in 2013.

We redesigned our Pillsbury biscuit dough can pallets in 2013 to increase the number of cans per pallet. The redesigned pallets also offer better protection during shipping, thereby reducing waste from damaged products. Through a one-time investment to change pallet configurations, we saved US$192,000 in logistics annually through optimization of truck transportation plus an additional US$780,000 savings from reducing the amount of unsalable products damaged during shipping. Preventing damage during shipping also saves the resources and materials used in making the product.

Then there is cereal legend Kellogg's , which in November 2013 announced a global, four-year efficiency and effectiveness program dubbed "Project K." As outlined in Kellogg's annual report, the "focus of Project K will be to strengthen existing businesses in core markets, increase growth in developing and emerging markets, and drive an increased level of value added innovation." In the company's annual report footnotes, Project K's goals become clearer, stating that savings will be "reinvested in advertising, in store execution, and in the design and quality of products.