A report from Bloomberg last week says that General Mills, working with Goldman Sachs, is thinking about selling off their Helper and Progresso brands, along with other smaller ones, for an estimated $3 billion. There are some in South Jersey that may be paying closer attention to that potential sale than others.
Progresso opened its Vineland canning factory in 1942, before they had become known for soups. Back then they were known for canned vegetables and to upper management of the time, there was no better place to place a factory than Vineland, New Jersey. After all, it was, and still is, largely Italian, but it is also the breadbasket of the state. They wanted all the fresh vegetables that were being grown in the area by all the Italian farmers to end up as their canned vegetables.
Fast forward to 1988 and we find Progresso, now more well known as a soup company, being bought out by Pillsbury. That would be a short-lived ownership, however, because in 2001 Pillsbury was acquired by General Mills.
Sixteen years pass, when in 2017 we find General Mills coming to the decision to close the Vineland canning factory to consolidate its domestic manufacturing. It puts around 350 employees out of work. And that is where the heart of this story steps to the fore.
You see, it’s those 350 or so people that I would say, no, wager, care a little more about this potential sale than most others. They have first hand knowledge of how fickle the business of food manufacturing can be and know just how much profit matters to a conglomerate seeking unlimited growth.
Sources for Progresso history: