Published on: November 9, 2016
by Kate McMahon
Can an animated, octogenarian mascot dressed in a leafy-green toga convince the millennial generation to shop for vegetables in the freezer case?
B&G Foods is hoping the Jolly Green Giant and his trademark “ho ho ho” will do just that, currently launching his comeback on social media and large and small screens across the nation.
The iconic giant has been shelved in recent years, as sales of frozen vegetables have slumped and younger, health-conscious shoppers have filled their grocery baskets with fresh kale and “power greens.”
The jolly one and his diminutive sidekick Sprout are currently on a cross-country Instagram road trip, and a teaser-style film trailer will be airing at movie theaters promoting his looming return to TV commercials and mainstream media. (You can see a version of it above.)
B&G purchased Green Giant from General Mills for $765 million last year, and is counting on Jolly Green Giant nostalgia and a new line of products to make the brand relevant again. According to Euromonitor, Green Giant’s vegetable sales in the U.S. have dropped 25% since 2011.
The new products are clearly designed for millennials and shoppers who are looking to swap vegetables for carbohydrate heavy starches such as pasts and potatoes, without the prep work. Interestingly, the emphasis is on the word “veggie” not "vegetable" in the product name. The frozen offerings include three varieties of Mashed Cauliflower, four varieties of Riced Veggies, five Roasted Veggies and three Veggie Tots aimed for kids.
Trader Joe’s introduced frozen riced cauliflower last year, and a bagged version in the refrigerated produce aisle this year, and both are big sellers. Wegmans has its own fresh-cut cauliflower rice, and Taylor Farms is promoting its cauliflower pearls as “the better way to mash.” Retailers ranging from Stew Leonard’s to Whole Foods to Stop and Shop sell zucchini and other fresh vegetables cut in spiral-like noodles as a pasta replacement.
Based on conversations with my daughters and other millennials, there is a perception among younger consumers that frozen vegetables lack the taste and nutritional value of fresh produce and are loaded with sodium and preservatives. I think the challenge for Green Giant is convincing them, and older shoppers as well, to return to the freezer case. The packaging promises no artificial flavors or preservatives, fewer carbs and calories, and a variety of flavors. I think flavor, and price point, will be critical. Lots of sampling will help.
Is the Jolly Green Giant the right pitchman for the job? The creative team behind his comeback said we will learn where he’s been in recent years, and why he’s the guy to convince America to eat more vegetables. It’s a tall order, and we’ll be watching.
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