Members of “The Press” may already be accustomed to being wined, dined, and wowed by the charm of manufacturers seeking to impress, but I’m not a member of that elite group, so I soaked up being spoiled at the Green Giant Valley. I know that my trip was an effort to introduce us to the brand of Green Giant, a brand owned by General Mills. It was fantastic, and it set the bar high for future press trips.
Here’s my first review of the trip: Green Giant’s Green Lessons.
Green Giant History
Green Giant used to be called Minnesota Valley Canning Company, and it was founded in 1903 in La Seuer, MN, a quaint farming community about an hour from Minneapolis. It gained the name “Green Giant” after the green peas that the canning company processed. In addition to peas, the company grew and canned corn, starting with cream-style corn-off-the-cob. The canning company eventually adopted the name Green Giant in 1950, after a successful advertising campaign in which they developed the the slogan “Picked at the Fleeting Moment of Perfect Flavor.”
The branding has been extremely successful. My family, most of whom reside in Minnesota, instantly recognizes Green Giant, and my mom continually referred to it as the Jolly Green Giant brand. My grandfather, a corn, hog, steer, and chicken farmer from the southwest corner of MN, recognized the name and the influence the company has had on farmers throughout the state, many of whom have probably grown some of the corn we’ve eaten under the Green Giant label. It was fascinating to hear the history of such an influential business that had a strong impact on my own family.
Green Giant Innovation
What impressed me about the Green Giant innovation was the research that was put into identifying the exact moment of “perfect ripeness.” A researcher at Green Giant applied a ripeness theory that based the vegetable’s development on average daily temperatures. As the temperatures fluctuated, the vegetables’s ripeness was assigned a number, and when a certain value was reached, the vegetable had reached its peak ripeness and should be harvested. By using the ripeness theory, called the “heat unit theory,” Green Giant ensures that all of the vegetables processed for its products are ideally ripe. I was really impressed with that, though I admit that I’d never applied too many brain cells to understanding how a farmer/producer could identify that perfect window of harvest time.
One other element of Green Giant’s business that actually surprised me was the focus on sustainability and green business practices. When I helped edit and publish That’s Natural, we often assumed that the larger companies didn’t concern themselves with their impacts on the communities or environments around them, and as a writer, I soon found that was an inaccurate assumption. I realized that I still held some of those concepts before the presentation by one of the agronomists at Green Giant. He explained the efforts to streamline farming practices, including using land and water more efficiently and implementing Integrated Pest Management methods, a practice advocated by organic farmers to eliminate pesticide use. Some of the ideas even came from Cascadian Farms, another brand operated by General Mills and one that is well recognized by organic consumers. It was interesting to see the full integration of the brands within a company and to see that “the big guys” are a lot more eco-conscious than they are credited.
General Mills and Green Giant operate several research projects as well as production testing. They have collaborated with the University of Minnesota, University of Arkansas, and the Nature Conservancy to learn more about resource management and development of production methods for the future. It was interesting to hear about the different projects they have, including an expected project focusing on preserving and reviving the honey bee population, which is swiftly dying out. I was quite impressed with hearing about their forward-focus approach in understanding and improving the land from which they harvest their famous vegetables.
While I have always recognized Green Giant as a premium brand of vegetables, I now understand why it is such a high quality brand. The production efforts alone distinguish it as a company that stands behind its products. Because increasing vegetable intake in America’s diet is so important, it’s easy to recommend Green Giant. Some naysayers would argue that Green Giant is a brand of highly processed food, and I will give them partial credit for that. The food is processed, so it would be ideal to grow your own produce or visit a local farmstand frequently and avoid processed items altogether. However, for those who cannot grow their own or who can’t get to a farmers market as easily, purchasing frozen or canned vegetables may be a great option. When vegetables are out of season, which for many of us is over half of a year, then purchasing vegetables that are harvested and preserved “at the perfect ripeness” would be a better choice than purchasing foods that are shipped from other parts of the world. Because Green Giant also emphasizes producing food in a greener manner, I would also recommend them as a brand to consider if a business’ practices are as important to you. They don’t offer organic vegetables through this label; that’s what Cascadian Farms is for. However, if you want conventionally but deliberately grown frozen or canned vegetables, then Green Giant could be a label you might consider.
All in all, I was very impressed with the company and with the employees that took time to answer questions and inform us on the work they do to keep the high quality of Green Giant’s food. It was interesting to see the fields, the processing plant, and the town in which Green Giant was founded.
For a press trip, I’d say this was well done.
Photo credit: all photos were taken by a professional photographer at the Green Giant Valley Visit. You can see the rest of the photos here.