How Green Giant Changed The Canned Food Industry Forever

Canned vegetables seem as commonplace nowadays as sliced bread, but at the start of the 20th century, they were a rarity until Green Giant revolutionized the industry. Known as the Minnesota Valley Canning Company when it was opened in 1903, the business was organized by a group of investors who had been convinced by a man named John Silver Hughes to create a cannery — a relatively new process, according to the Minnesota Historical Society

While the process of canning food didn't really gain in popularity until the 20th century, the process was invented much earlier by Nicolas Appert of France, according to Britannica. The Frenchman had conducted lots of research into ways to preserve food for military use. A year later, the tin can was patented by Englishman Peter Durand, who then started to supply the tin-coated iron cans to the Royal Navy in 1820.  In its infancy, the MVCC only packaged one item for sale: white cream-style corn, according to the Minnesota Historical Society. But, four years later its vision would start to grow.

A green giant and some peas

In 1907, MVCC started to can Early June peas, which began the company's trajectory toward becoming the Green Giant Company decades later in 1950, per the Minnesota Historical Society. Eighteen years after starting, a company executive added a large pea to the company's lineup of products that was both tender and sweet that he had brought from England (via Mental Floss). To help sell the peas, MVCC created a mascot, a green giant. Known as the Green Giant with his iconic "ho, ho, ho," the mascot evolved over the years to be a gentler-looking fellow, and in 1950 he became the logo for the whole company, according to Green Giant Company

At the same time, the company was growing its reputation with its green mascot, it was also developing new techniques, including a way to vacuum-pack corn it would call Niblets in 1929, according to the Minnesota Historical Society. Another innovation soon followed in 1933 when the company implemented machines that separated peas during the manufacturing process. In 1934, MVCC invented a way to forecast when crops were prime for harvesting, called the heat unit method in 1934, chronicles the Minnesota Historical Society.

Like so many iconic companies, the Green Giant Company found growth in merging and in 1979, it merges with Pillsbury, but its Green Giant logo remained and was joined by Little Green Sprout in 1972, according to Pop Icon.