Green Giant vs. Birds Eye
B&G's Green Giant brand is ready to “fight back” against Birds Eye, its rival in the frozen vegetable category.

NEW YORK — Prepare for a fracas in the freezer aisle. Robert C. Cantwell, president and chief executive officer of B&G Foods, Inc., said his company’s newly acquired Green Giant brand is ready to “fight back” against its rival in the frozen vegetable category.

During a presentation at the Stephens Spring Investment Conference on June 7 in New York, Mr. Cantwell revealed near-term innovation and marketing efforts under way for the Green Giant brand with the goal to regain share from category leader Birds Eye.

“Certainly, we have a first-in-class competitor, (but) we believe we have the better brands,” said Mr. Cantwell of Parsippany, N.J.-based B&G Foods. “We believe we have this iconic figure that could move the needle, and we’re going to spend more money in that category and hopefully be as innovative and certainly if not more innovative than they have, and they’ve done a tremendous job. So, they’re certainly not going to roll over, they’re going to be very strong competitors, and we have to hopefully win the war over time.”

Birds Eye, a business unit of Pinnacle Foods Group, has benefitted from Green Giant’s distribution losses in recent years under General Mills’ ownership, Mr. Cantwell said.

“It wasn’t important in their portfolio, and (Birds Eye has) taken advantage,” he said. “Most of the distribution losses that Green Giant has (incurred) over the years have been taken by our competitors. Now, it’s time to fight back. They now have a competitor who cares. This is extremely important to us where it was just another brand in a major company’s portfolio. So, we just have to win the fight and be better at it.”

Robert Cantwell pull quote

B&G Foods partnered with The Kerry Group P.L.C., Dublin, Ireland, to develop four new frozen vegetable platforms under the Green Giant banner that will launch as early as August.

“Two of those platforms are very unique; nobody was selling anything like it in the frozen space,” Mr. Cantwell said.

While he declined to provide details on forthcoming Green Giant innovation, Mr. Cantwell said it is “not just me-too innovation” and described it as “platforms of products that nobody else is selling in a different way to eat vegetables today.”

Historically, B&G Foods has collaborated with its more than 50 co-manufacturers to develop new products, but the addition of Green Giant has enabled the company to build out a research and development team, Mr. Cantwell said.

“We have a very strong team in place today, but we also have no issue with using outside parties to help us, and Kerry, for example, who we’re using today … has some very interesting abilities from pilot plants, etc., to really bring stuff up in a very quick fashion,” Mr. Cantwell said. “So, we expect to use our partnership long term, but certainly now we have a team internally that can also help manage that through.”

With the Green Giant innovation, he said, “we weren’t looking to create platforms that Green Giant didn’t have. We wanted to make sure we created something that nobody else had… and that’s why I am very happy and very surprised we got to where we are today when we took over business that had nothing in the pipeline.”

B&G Foods is set to initiate a substantial marketing campaign this summer, referred to internally as “awakening the Giant,” he said.

“It’ll be a relatively large launch and then a bigger launch in the fall, and we’re taking this business where the seller was spending what I call ‘working media’ over the last couple of years of anywhere between $3 million and $5 million on the brand,” Mr. Cantwell said. “We’re taking that number upwards of $35 million, and as we grow the brand, we plan on adding to that number, because we see a lot of opportunities here in the next one to three years, if not longer, but certainly in the first three years really building this brand back.”

B&G Foods’ marketing plans for Green Giant may help drive growth in the total frozen vegetable category, he added.

“Us heavily supporting the category hopefully is a huge benefit to Green Giant, but it normally doesn’t hurt the competitor either because it drives foot traffic to the category and more usage,” Mr. Cantwell said. “So, usually heavily advertising in the category rises all boats and helps everyone hopefully, and we expect with our innovation to help us a lot more.”