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Facts Obscured About Frozen Produce
On General Mills/Green Giant Web Site

We owe a hat tip to an industry expert who could easily write to us on many subjects. Today, however, he wrote us not about an urgent industry issue such as food safety or food security but about our piece, Will Fresh Industry Foot Bill If Frozen/Canned Uses More Matters Logo?

In this piece, we raised two key questions:

  • If PBH is going to promote canned and frozen, does this mean the fresh produce industry needs to start a new organization for the sole purpose of promoting fresh produce?
  • Whatever the science behind the health claims, does it make sense for PBH, which depends heavily on fresh produce vendors as a funding source, to be promoting canned and frozen?

Our expert sent us this note, with a most interesting resource:

I enjoyed your article, “Will Fresh Industry Foot Bill If Frozen/Canned Uses More Matters Logo?”

Check out the website — another challenge for the fresh produce industry!

A challenge indeed. This web site is shocking. It begins with these words:

Think fresh vegetables are better then frozen? Think again.

Think Fresh. Go Frozen.

The web site is put out by Green Giant — the same Green Giant that licenses its name to The Scholl Group to be used on fresh product.

Apparently, although they are willing to accept royalties for their name from fresh producers, they don’t realize that properly marketing fresh could provide a “halo effect” for their canned and frozen product. Instead they devote an entire website to getting people to “Go Frozen.”

If you click on “Explore the valley and see what we mean,” you will see a series of videos related to why frozen is preferable for freshness, nutrition, safety, variety and convenience.

General Mills owns Green Giant, and it should be ashamed of itself for producing such a highly deceptive website. Every single video on the site has a lily-white person who looks like he or she just got off the farm in Minnesota.

The clear implication of the site is that Green Giant grows everything in Minnesota and — because the growing season isn’t year round — freezes in the goodness to make it available year round.

Yet we searched that site high and low to get information on country-of-origin and couldn’t find a word.

But the facts are clearly being obscured by this website. We know, for example, that Pillsbury, which owned Green Giant when both were acquired by General Mills in 2001, had closed its plant in Monterey, California, to produce product in Mexico:

Pillsbury Company’s Green Giant division, for example, moved a frozen-food packing factory from Watsonville, California, to Mexico in anticipation of the adoption of NAFTA, with the idea of importing products back into the United States without tariffs and with few food safety controls.

For the community of Watsonville, the loss of the Green Giant factory means that the farmers in the area who grew crops for the plant lost their market, farmworkers who picked those crops lost their jobs and the workers in the cannery were put out of work.

And if you take a look at the product, you clearly see that many items state “Product of Mexico.” We have circled the notation on some of the packaging below:

Some of the canned items state, Product of China:

Now, this is the exact kind of product that would qualify for the “More Matters” logo that Safeway and Schnuck Markets are putting on their frozen and canned fruits and vegetables.

We should be clear: There is nothing wrong with selling frozen or canned produce.

We do think that the Green Giant web site is not as forthright about where their product comes from as would be expected of such a premier corporate name. We think any consumer who went through that site would be shocked to learn that Green Giant is importing broccoli from Mexico.

Our real point though is that the frozen and canned industry are not the same industry as the fresh business.

It doesn’t help D’Arrigo Bros. Of California or Mann Packing if consumers eat more frozen broccoli from Mexico — they are competitors, not compatriots.

Now, the Produce for Better Health Foundation is obligated to follow the science on nutrition and the findings of government. So, if they have to promote fresh, canned, frozen and juice — so be it.

The fresh broccoli industry, though, just as with the fresh mushroom industry and many other commodities, needs a promotional arm that can sing their praises.

If it can’t be legitimately done based on health — let us do it on flavor or freshness or another product attribute. And if PBH can’t do it, well, we need another mechanism to make it happen.

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