Green Giant, the iconic brand owned by B&G Foods, is determined to thaw out the cold shoulder consumers have been giving the frozen food aisle.
Sales of the category—once held in high esteem for its convenience factor—haven’t nudged over the last four years, according to market research firm Packaged Facts.
Instead, consumers have been breathing new life into the perimeter of the store, shifting their dollars to the fresh produce that resides there. The swing in spending is part of a broader trend of shoppers eschewing processed fare for goods that they perceive as healthier and natural.
Now, Green Giant is working to get some of that newfound zest in fruits and veggies to rub off on frozen food
“There’s an opportunity to take what’s happening in fresh and apply it to frozen veggies, where the belief was that there hadn’t been a lot of exciting things happening,” says Jordan Greenberg, vice president and general manager of Green Giant.
In January, the company will roll out what it says is the first frozen line of spiralized vegetables—the hot food trend of cutting veggies into long strips that can be used as a replacement for pasta—available in supermarkets nationwide. The move follows the launch last year of frozen riced and mashed cauliflower and veggie tots.
“Consumers are trying to get more veggies in their diet,” says Greenberg, and are therefore “swapping in” the likes of squash and cauliflower for pasta or rice. The company is touting that its spiralized vegetables—in zucchini, carrot, and butternut squash varieties—have 65-90% fewer carbs than traditional pasta.
Greenberg is hopeful that the new products will help change the “bad impression” some consumers have of frozen vegetables. “A lot of people have this image of them coming out of a box as a brick,” he says. “We’re playing on what fresh vegetables are today and applying to frozen to turn the category on its head.”
The vegetables are being packaged without any sauces or seasoning. “This is the way we believe consumers want to eat vegetables—very clean, very simple,” Greenberg says.
So far the new developments seem to be working. The company said that since it launched riced veggies last years, it has had to increase seven-fold the number of acres harvested each week. In its most recent quarter, B&G Foods reported a $9.4 million increase in sales of the brand’s frozen products, driven by its new innovations, compared to the same quarter a year ago. The boost helped offset a $7.6 million sales decline in its shelf-stable products, a drop that’s symptomatic of the sector’s broader problems.
B&G Foods acquired Green Giant from General Mills in 2015 for $765 million. At the time of the deal, Fortune reported that Green Giant had roughly $550 million in annual sales and would become the largest of B&G’s then-40 food brands that include the likes of Cream of Wheat and Ortega. The sale came after General Mills (GIS) took a $260 million charge tied to the brand’s declining value.
When the deal closed, Green Giant became B&G’s biggest brand. Greenberg said that “there weren’t any innovations in the pipeline” at the time of the acquisition and that the new products are a way to “rekindle and relaunch” the brand.