General Mills couldn’t see a path to bring the Green Giant vegetables brand into the modern era of millennial appreciation of veggies for themselves and their kids. So the company sold the Jolly Green Giant to B&G Foods in 2015 for $765 million.
Green Giant frozen vegetables immediately became a star of the B&G portfolio that also included iconic classics such as Cream of Wheat and startup performers such as Pirate’s Booty snacks.
The company supported its overhaul in 2016 with a $30 million ad campaign that reintroduced the amiable Giant in TV ads, a cartoon version of which was one of the best-known mascots in marketing a generation earlier.
Now, Green Giant is taking the next step by introducing on-trend new products that take advantage of changes in how millennial consumers and others eat vegetables and also seem sure to help extend a general turnaround in the fortunes of frozen vegetables in US supermarkets.
Updating the Green Giant character (texting, paddleboarding—the big green dude even used Snapchat filters at Coachella) for a new era, his Instagram bio reads: “70 feet tall. Green. Loves veggies. Currently on a mission to swap in veggies at every meal.” And yes, Sprout has his own Instagram feed too; here’s how the duo commented on the solar eclipse frenzy:
General Mills “hadn’t introduced any meaningful new innovation products for the brand in a long time,” Jordan Greenberg, vice president and general manager of the Green Giant brand, told brandchannel, “so [we] set out to reinvigorate the brand.”
The new product lines are built around the idea of “swapping in” veggies for carbs in many traditional recipes, including Veggie Tots that are filled with cauliflower or broccoli or corn instead of potatoes, Riced Veggies that pose as alternatives to traditional rice, and Mashed Cauliflower side dishes that are positioned as a more nutritious choice than mashed potatoes.
We asked Greenberg (right) about keeping the momentum and growth going for the new Jolly Green Giant in our latest Q&A:
Jordan, what is the philosophy that B&G is pursuing in updating and reinvigorating the Green Giant brand?
We acquired the brand in November 2015 and began developing products that offer consumers opportunities to add more veggies to their diet by swapping out white carbs and less-healthy side dishes with vegetables.
We [reinvigorated it] by developing new innovation products and executing an extensive marketing campaign that included the reintroduction of the iconic Green Giant. We were blown away by the success of our [swap-ins] and knew that we had uncovered a new way that consumers want to eat their veggies.
Take, for example, your Riced products and the Mashed Cauliflower line. What’s behind such a huge bet in such a heretofore relatively obscure vegetable?
We saw cauliflower as an emerging trend when we purchased the Green Giant brand and seized the opportunity to develop a product that we knew would be well-received and offer convenience to consumers, as the first company to introduce riced cauliflower in the frozen aisle.
[They’ve] been flying off the shelves. To put the success in perspective, when we first introduced our Green Giant Riced Veggies line in September 2016, we were harvesting five hours of cauliflower per week to create the product. By May 2017, we had increased to 35 acres per week, and we anticipate that number to continue increasing this fall.
How do you get consumers to regard the freezer case as a cool (so to speak) part of the grocery store?
Our new innovation products are resonating with consumers who may not already eat frozen vegetables … Now it’s our mission to continue to roll out new products that keep them coming back to the frozen aisle to see what’s next from Green Giant. Our main goal is to help consumers eat more veggies by continually introducing new products that allow them to add an additional serving of veggies.
You still have far more Steamers SKUs in the freezer case than anything else, and a big line of canned veggies. How have sales in that segment worked out?
Because this product line was launched when General Mills owned the brand, we can’t say whether it’s meeting initial expectations. Overall, we think that Steamers have changed how consumers eat vegetables because they offer convenience and provide an easier way to eat more vegetables.
So what’s next for the Green Giant brand?
The second phase of our Veggie Swap-Ins line will debut in January with the introduction of Veggie Spirals, an alternative to traditional pasta. We are already seeing so many consumers spiralizing their own vegetables, so this product makes a lot of sense for our next introduction.
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