The Jolly Green Giant is old but, it turns out, not the oldest part of his new company.
When General Mills Inc. agreed to sell Green Giant products to B&G Foods Inc. this week, it marked another turning point in the history of one of Minnesota's best-known brands.
Green Giant began as the Minnesota Valley Canning Co. in 1903, was renamed Green Giant Co. in the 1950s after the recognizability of its symbol, purchased by Pillsbury Co. in the 1970s and integrated with General Mills when it bought Pillsbury in 2001.
B&G Foods traces its roots to a pickle company called Bloch & Guggenheimer that immigrants started in New York City in 1889. The firm built a sizable pickle plant in Long Island City, Queens, with a special railroad siding for deliveries of brine water from Michigan.
The plant closed in the 1970s. B&G pickles are still produced in Maryland and distributed chiefly to grocery stores in the eastern United States.
In 1996, B&G restructured itself as a holding company and began to acquire other brands, mostly of what grocers call "shelf stable" foods, or packaged foods that don't spoil quickly. Before the Green Giant deal, its biggest brand was Ortega, the Mexican food products line it acquired in 2005.
B&G in 1999 bought Accent and Sa-son Accent flavor enhancers, B&M baked beans, Joan of Arc canned beans, Las Palmas Mexican food and Underwood meat spreads from Pillsbury, which at the time said it wanted to concentrate on its bigger brands, including Green Giant.
And in 2007, B&G bought Cream of Wheat from its then-owner Kraft Foods. Cream of Wheat started in Grand Forks, N.D., in 1893 and four years later moved to Minneapolis, where it eventually built a landmark plant at Stinson Boulevard and NE. Broadway Street. It was used until 2002 and now houses condos.
None of B&G's previous deals come close to the size of its purchase of Green Giant, which will nearly double its annual sales to around $1.5 billion.
"Green Giant represents a giant leap forward for our company," chief executive Robert Cantwell said Thursday. "This was a tremendous opportunity for us to get one of the most iconic brands in the country."