For more than 100 years, the Green Giant brand has brought vegetables picked at the peak of perfection to dinner tables across the country, making nutritious vegetables even more delicious through unique combinations and a variety of sauces.

In early 2011, the Green Giant team at Minneapolis-based General Mills began exploring new ways to offer consumers great flavor without adding sauce or butter to its vegetables. While the Green Giant line already included a wide range of plain frozen vegetables and dozens of sauce-based varieties, consumer feedback consistently showed a preference for even more varieties of flavors and seasonings.

While the General Mills R&D team could have started from scratch, spending valuable time and resources to experiment with brand new formulations and flavor combinations, they instead turned to Burley Foods, Edina, Minn. By tapping into the company’s open innovation strategy, also known as the General Mills Worldwide Innovation Network (G-WIN), Burley Foods provided the know-how to help get the job done more effectively and efficiently.

In February 2011, the Burley Foods team brought in a highly-trained chef to demonstrate numerous new vegetable blends and recipe ideas to a group of cross-functional General Mills team members, from R&D scientists to marketing managers to consumer insights experts. The prototypes tasted great, so it was an Green Giant frozen veggieseasy decision to move forward and collaborate with Burley Foods on the new project, says Kate Gallager, R&D manager for Green Giant.

“From the very first presentation, we were excited about how Burley brought new ideas to life, while really thinking about how the prototype offerings complemented our existing product portfolio,” Gallager says. “The culinary knowledge of Burley’s chef provided the expertise we needed to bring more complex seasonings and unique vegetable pairings to Green Giant.”

Working together with the Burley Foods team, Green Giant was able to refine the recipes and develop a new, chef-inspired lineup of frozen vegetables—Green Giant Seasoned Steamers—what is said to be one of the first sauce-free seasoned frozen vegetable lines available. What could have been a tedious, time-intensive process experimenting with recipe after recipe in the culinary labs of General Mills was instead a mutually beneficial collaboration with an external partner company.

“The opportunity to partner with General Mills to create Green Giant Seasoned Steamers enabled Burley Foods to bring a new business model to our ingredient supplier partners and our customer General Mills,” says Mike Burley, owner of Burley Foods. “With the transparent clarity we received from General Mills’ marketing and R&D personnel, our Burley Foods team was able to leverage and guide the vast culinary and technical resources of our suppliers to find innovative ingredient solutions and arrive at the desired end product in record-pace time. We believe this model and our partnership with General Mills will be the blueprint for success in the future.”