LAS VEGAS — Growers Express LLC has purchased the licensing rights for the Green Giant Fresh line, giving the Salinas, Calif.-based company marketing and distribution rights to the well-known brand.

Woody Johnson, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Growers Express, said agreements with fruit and vegetable shippers that pack under the Green Giant Fresh label will remain intact and retailers and consumers won’t see changes to what’s offered in the line.

The key element of the transaction was a master trademark license agreement with General Mills Inc., the owner of the Green Giant brand.

The company announced the agreement April 23 at the United Fresh Produce Association convention.

Growers Express formed a new affiliate, Growers Marketing LLC, which will be the operating unit to manage this venture.

“I saw some data from The Perishables Group just this morning that showed that only three brands showed growth in dollar sales the last quarter,” Johnson said. “One was private label, one was Green Giant, and another was a competitor I won’t name. General Mills made it clear that it’s a label that really enhances things.”

Growers Express has packed under the Green Giant Fresh label for 12 years and will continue to supply mixed leaf lettuce, broccoli, celery and other vegetables through the program. This year, the company will add artichokes to the Green Giant Fresh program.

Growers Express buys licensing rights to Green Giant Fresh

The Sholl Group II, Eden Prairie, Minn., which had owned the Green Giant Fresh licensing rights, will continue offering value-added products under a new sublicensing agreement with Growers Marketing. The company’s current co-packing agreements, employees and network of regional processors will remain in place with no interruption in service expected, said Darci Eckermann, senior vice president of The Sholl Group.

“We’ve been concentrating on value-added for quite a while,” Eckermann said. “It will be pretty seamless for us.”

The Green Giant Fresh value-added line includes a fresh steam line of vegetables, fresh stir-fry medleys, fresh-cut vegetables and fresh patio grillers.

Johnson said Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Potandon Produce LLC, a sister company of The Sholl Group II, which has a licensing agreement with General Mills for Green Giant Fresh potatoes and onions, was not involved in the transaction.

“We’re real excited about this, because Green Giant really is a booming brand,” said Jamie Strachan, chief executive officer and president of Growers Express.