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An ad from 1951. Jamie via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
An ad from 1951. Jamie via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

11 Hulking Facts About Green Giant

An ad from 1951. Jamie via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
An ad from 1951. Jamie via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Although most well known for its peas and corn, the Green Giant brand sells a variety of fresh, frozen, canned, bagged, and boxed vegetables (as well as hummus). Founded in 1903 as the Minnesota Valley Canning Company, the company changed its name in 1950 to Green Giant, though its recognizable mascot had been around much longer. Read on for 11 things you might not know about the veggie company.

1. THE COMPANY WAS AT THE FOREFRONT OF INDUSTRIAL CANNING.

In 1903, 14 merchants in Le Sueur, Minnesota joined forces to create the Minnesota Valley Canning Company. They started an industrial cannery, producing and selling 11,750 cases of white corn in their first year of business. In 1907, they started producing cans of Early June peas, and they continued to focus only on corn and peas until 1939 when they began also selling canned asparagus.

2. GREEN GIANT PEAS WERE NAMED AFTER A BIG PEA FROM ENGLAND.

Until 1925, the Minnesota Valley Canning Company only sold Early June peas, a variety of small, sweet peas. When a company executive found a large pea in England that was tender and tasted sweet, he brought it back to Minnesota. At the time, the company couldn’t legally trademark the name Green Giant to describe the peas, so they created a mascot named Green Giant and sold the new type of peas under that name.

3. THE ORIGINAL GREEN GIANT MASCOT WAS NEITHER JOLLY NOR GREEN…

COURTESY GREEN GIANT

The original Green Giant mascot was a white (not green) man holding a giant pea pod in his arms. Starting in 1928, he appeared in ads for the peas. The Green Giant’s original incarnation was reportedly influenced by illustrations from Grimms' Fairy Tales, a collection of German fairy tales from the early 1800s.

4. …BUT HE BECAME THE GENTLE GIANT WE KNOW TODAY THANKS TO THE CREATOR OF TONY THE TIGER AND THE PILLSBURY DOUGHBOY.

An ad from 1953. Jamie via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The advertising company Leo Burnett, which created other well-known food mascots such as Tony the Tiger, the Pillsbury Doughboy, and Toucan Sam, softened the Green Giant’s appearance in 1935. The revised giant had a smile to match his new name, the Jolly Green Giant, and he wore a toga of green leaves. He also got a backstory—he watched over the Jolly Green Giant Valley, protecting the crops.

5. GREEN GIANT HAS CLOSE TIES WITH LE SUEUR VEGETABLES.

Green Giant and Le Sueur are different brands under the same company. Because the Minnesota Valley Canning Company was founded in Le Sueur, Minnesota, the company named its canned vegetables Le Sueur Z. They dropped the Z in 1933, but Le Sueur still sells cans of peas, asparagus, and carrots today.

6. LITTLE GREEN SPROUT HAS BEEN LEARNING FROM THE JOLLY GREEN GIANT SINCE THE EARLY 1970s.

Green Giant introduced another company mascot called Little Green Sprout in 1973. Aimed at children, the young green boy with leaves for hair joined the Jolly Green Giant in the valley, learning about veggies and keeping him company. Little Green Sprout’s youth is reinforced with his high-pitched voice, a stark contrast to the Jolly Green Giant’s booming "ho, ho, ho" tagline.

7. YOU CAN VISIT A TOWERING 55-FOOT STATUE OF THE JOLLY GREEN GIANT.

Tourists to Blue Earth, Minnesota will probably marvel at the sight of a 55-foot statue of the Jolly Green Giant. Paul Hedberg, a radio station owner, wanted to encourage visitors who were traveling on Interstate 90 to stop in Blue Earth, so he contacted Green Giant to ask if a statue could be erected. Green Giant gave the okay, and Hedberg raised money from local businesses. The fiberglass statue, which has been towering over the town since 1979, even gets a giant red scarf placed around his neck each winter.

8. GREEN GIANT HAS INNOVATED VEGETABLE MANUFACTURING METHODS.

Green Giant has a history of being on the cutting edge of research and development. In 1929, the company invented Green Giant Niblets by canning vacuum-packed sweet corn in a new way. In 1933, the company used gravity separators—machines that measured and separated peas during the manufacturing process. And in 1969, Green Giant was the first company to sell frozen corn on the cob and mushrooms in glass jars.

9. GREEN GIANT FREEZES THEIR VEGETABLES AFTER HARVESTING TO PRESERVE NUTRIENTS.

Studies have shown that freezing vegetables at their peak ripeness can preserve the nutrients, so you can get just as much benefit from eating frozen veggies as eating fresh ones. Green Giant’s sweet corn, for example, is frozen and packaged within 24 hours of being harvested, and then shipped to a grocery store near you.

10. GREEN GIANT SUPPORTS BULLY PREVENTION.

Green Giant has partnered with Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center to help kids who are bullied. With the "Nominate A Giant" program, Green Giant encourages people in the community to nominate kids and adults who stand up against bullies. "From being friendly in the halls to inviting others to sit with you at lunch, your nice gesture is what makes you a Giant," the company writes, and they reported that more than 12,000 people nominated "giants" on their social media pages.

11. THE JOLLY GREEN GIANT HAS BECOME A POP CULTURE ICON.

People love the Green Giant’s combination of brawn and gentleness. In Blue Earth, Minnesota, people can visit the Green Giant Museum and get a kick out of seeing the giant green footsteps that are painted on the sidewalks each summer for the town’s Giant Days festival and parade. For those not in Minnesota, Green Giant vintage merchandise such as dolls, kites, shirts, hats, coffee cups, and posters are available for sale online.

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The Top Excuses Employees Give for Being Late to Work
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Expecting staff to just get out of bed and show up on time seems like a low bar for an employer to set, but some workers have trouble meeting this bare-minimum obligation. Their stated reasons can almost sound believable.

Job placement site CareerBuilder.com recently conducted a survey and asked 800 respondents in various age brackets how often they were late for work, as well as over 1000 human resource managers for data on missing workers. Overall, one in four employees admitted to being tardy at least once a month. Those aged 18 to 34 were the most frequently late, with 38 percent clocking in past their expected arrival. Only 14 percent of workers 45 and older were less-than-punctual.

As for excuses: 51 percent said traffic was the most common reason they straggled in. Around 31 percent said oversleeping was an issue, while bad weather (28 percent) and forgetting something and having to return home (13 percent) plagued others.

According to human resources managers, some workers claimed that they were late because their coffee was too hot; that they fell asleep in the parking lot; that it was too cold outside to travel; or that their false eyelashes were stuck together.

Not surprisingly, CareerBuilder also found that 88 percent of workers were in favor of a flexible work schedule.

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14 Secrets of Costco Employees
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Costco has become something of a unicorn in the brick-and-mortar industry. While employees at other chains express concerns over low wages and questionable management choices, the 200,000-plus ground troops at Costco’s massive shopping centers rave about generous pay ($13 to $22.50 hourly, depending on seniority), comprehensive benefits, and pension plans. After one year of employment, the turnover rate is only 6 percent, compared to an average of 16 percent across the retail industry. Not having to incur costs of training replacements is just one reason the company keeps prices low.

It’s no secret that Costco employees are a relatively happy bunch. But we wanted a little more information, so we’ve asked several current Costco workers about everything from pet peeves to nail polish bans to revoking memberships. (All requested we use only their first names to preserve anonymity.) Here’s what they had to tell us about life in the pallets.

1. WORKING THERE IS BETTER THAN GOING TO THE GYM.

Turns out that navigating a warehouse full of goods stacked to the ceiling is kind of like getting an all-day gym pass. “I walk about five to eight miles a day on average, and that's all within the confines of the store,” says Rachael, a Costco employee in Colorado. “When you see pallets stacked with 50-pound bags of flour or sugar or dog food or cat litter, a lot of that stuff had to be stacked by hand by employees before the store opens. Ditto for those giant stacks of shoes and bottles of salsa or five-gallon jugs of cooking oil. It's a lot of hard work.”

2. THEY CAN DO THEIR SHOPPING AFTER HOURS.

Costco shopping carts are arranged together
Brendan Smialowski, Getty Images

While employees typically don’t get shopping discounts, they have something that’s arguably better: the opportunity to shop in a near-empty store. “You can shop after hours, and a lot of employees do that,” says Kathleen, a Costco employee in Washington state. “You just bring your cart to the front register.” The store will keep the member service counter open so workers can check out after other registers have closed.

3. THE GENEROUS RETURN POLICY CAN GET MESSY.

Costco infamously places very few restrictions on returns. Most anything purchased there can be brought back for a refund as part of the company’s overall emphasis on exceptional customer service. Naturally, some members are willing to abuse the privilege. “Members return couches that are over five years old, and interestingly enough, they still have the receipt,” Rachael says. “My guess is that they buy that couch with the intention of returning it someday, so they tape the receipt to the bottom of the couch so they don't lose it. Then, when they've worn it out and want something new, they bring it back and get a full refund.”

Rachael has also seen a member return a freezer that was allegedly no longer working. The store refunded both the cost of the appliance and the spoiled meat inside. “The meat smelled like death,” she says.

4. THEY CAN ALSO TELL WHEN YOU’RE A SERIAL RETURNER.

A shopper at Costco looks at the computer display
Tim Boyle, Getty Images

Costco purchase records typically date back 10 years or so, but employees working the return counter don’t always need to reference your account to know that you're making a habit of getting refunds. “When someone comes in to return something without a receipt and they go, ‘Oh, you can look it up on my account,’ that’s a tell,” says Thomas, an employee in California. “It tells me you return so much stuff that you know what we can find on the computer.”

5. THERE’S A CONVENIENCE STORE-WITHIN-A-STORE.

While employees are generally allowed to eat their lunch or dinner meals in the food court, not all of them are crazy about pizza and hot dogs as part of their daily diet. Many opt for the employee break room, which—in some warehouse locations—looks more like a highway rest stop. Rows of vending machines offer fresh meals, snacks, and sodas, along with a complete kitchen for preparing food brought from home. “[It’s a] relatively new addition that is being implemented at more warehouses,” says Steve, an employee in California. “It's basically like a gas station's convenience store, with both frozen and fresh meals and snacks. The only difference is the prices are more reasonable.”

6. THERE’S A GOOD REASON THERE ISN’T AN EXPRESS CHECKOUT LANE.

A Costco shopper goes through the checkout lane
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Walk into a Costco and you’ll probably notice an employee with a click counter taking inventory of incoming members. According to Rachael, that head count gets relayed to the supervisor in charge of opening registers. “They know that for a certain amount of people entering the store, within a certain amount of time, there should be a certain amount of registers open to accommodate those shoppers who are ready to check out,” she says. If there aren’t enough cashiers on hand, the supervisor can pull from other departments: Most employees are “cross-trained” to help out when areas are understaffed.

7. THERE’S A METHOD TO THE RECEIPT CHECK.

Customers sometimes feel offended when they’re met at the exit by an employee scanning their receipt, but it’s all in an effort to mitigate loss prevention and keep prices low. “We’re looking for items on the bottom of the cart, big items like TVs, or alcohol,” Thomas says. Typically, the value of these items might make it worth the risk for a customer who's trying to shoplift—and they're worth the double-check.

8. THEY TAKE SAFE FOOD HANDLING TO A NEW LEVEL ...

A Costco employee works in food preparation
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

At Costco, employees are expected to exercise extreme caution when preparing and serving hot dogs, pizza, chicken and other food to members. “If an employee forgets to remove their apron before exiting the department, they must remove that apron, toss it into the hamper, and put on a fresh apron because now it's contaminated,” Rachael says. “Or, let's say a member asks for a slice of cheese pizza. We place that piece onto a plate, with tongs, of course, then place the plate onto the counter. If the member says, ‘Oh darn, I've changed my mind, I'd rather have pepperoni pizza,’ then we have to toss the pizza that they didn't want into the trash. Once it hits the counter, it can't come back.” Some store protocols even prohibit employees from wearing nail polish in food prep areas—it could chip and get into the food.

9. ... BUT WORKING AT THE FOOD COURT CAN PREPARE THEM FOR ANYTHING.

Costco employees who find themselves behind the counter at the chain’s food court say it's one of the few less-than-pleasant experiences of working there. For some members, the dynamic of waiting on food and peering over a service counter can make them forget their manners. “Usually members are rude when they are waiting on their pizza during a busy time,” Steve says. “If an employee can excel in the food court, any other position in the warehouse is pretty easy by comparison.”

10. THEY GET FREE TURKEYS.

Costco’s generous wages and benefits keep employment applications stacked high. What people don’t realize, Kathleen says, is that the company’s attention to employee satisfaction can result in getting gifted a giant bird. “We get free turkeys for Thanksgiving,” she says. “I didn’t even know that before I started working there. It’s a nice perk.”

11. THEY CAN REVOKE YOUR MEMBERSHIP.

Shoppers go down an aisle at Costco
Gabriel Buoys, AFP/Getty Images

But it’s got to be a pretty extreme situation. According to Thomas, memberships can be terminated if a member is caught stealing or having a physical altercation inside the store. For less severe infractions, employees can make notes under a “comments” section of your membership. They’ll do that for frequent returns, if you’re verbally aggressive, or if you like to rummage through pre-packaged produce looking for the best apples. (Don’t do that.)

12. MANAGERS GET THEIR HANDS DIRTY.

During peak business times on weekends and around holidays, the influx of customer traffic can get so formidable that managers jump in with employees to make sure everything gets taken care of. “Most people would be surprised if they realized that the person who just put all of their groceries into their cart at the registers or who helped load that huge mattress into their car was actually the store's general manager,” Rachael says.

13. EVERY DAILY STORE OPENING IS CONTROLLED CHAOS …

Shoppers appear in front of a Costco store
Scott Olsen, Getty Images

Like most any retail store, Costco prides itself on presenting a clean, efficient, and organized layout that holds little trace of the labor that went into overnight stocking or display preparation. But if a customer ever happened to see the store in the last hour before opening each day, they’d witness a flurry of activity. “It's controlled chaos with loud music along with the blaring of the forklift sirens,” Steve says. “Employees are rushing to finish and clean up, drivers are rushing to put merchandising in the steel [shelving], and the floor scrubber slowly but surely makes its way around the warehouse. It truly is a remarkable choreography that happens seven days a week.”

14. … AND EVERY CLOSING IS A SLOW MARCH.

To avoid stragglers, Costco employees form a line and walk down aisles to encourage customers to move toward the front of the store so they can check out before closing. Once the doors are locked, overnight stocking begins in anticipation of another day at the world’s coziest warehouse. “Our store has over 250 employees altogether,” Rachael says. “If all of us do our little bit, then it's a well-oiled machine that runs without a hitch.”

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