Iconic vegetable brand Green Giant has broken with its 83-year tradition of producing only canned vegetables to venture into the soup category.

General Mills-owned Green Giant said the brand’s family-friendly heritage would help the new ambient range, which hits shelves this month, compete against Heinz, Baxters and Loyd Grossman soups. It added that it expected Green Giant Soup sales to exceed £4m in its first year. 

The soups come in Country Garden Vegetable, Farm Harvest Mushroom and Vine Ripened Tomato varieties, which General Mills claimed each provided consumers with one of their 5-a-day portions of fresh fruit and vegetables.

It had decided to use 330g microwaveable pouches (rsp £1.25) because they had a healthier, fresher and more modern image than cans, it said.

“The brand is set to be a major retail success and its potential is huge,” said Linda Hipkiss, marketing director. “The brand’s key attributes and heritage deliver something new to the soup category and give these soups strong consumer appeal.”

General Mills is backing the new range with a £2m television advertising campaign to launch later in the year as well as consumer PR, in-store activity, sampling and some online advertising. The investment forms part of a wider £5.2m marketing support package for the Green Giant brand in 2008. 

“Our ongoing research revealed that there is a real gap in the soup category for a product with a fresh, natural, high-quality offering from a brand consumers love and trust,” Hipkiss added.

The Green Giant brand is currently worth £37m in the UK, according to IRI, and its canned sweetcorn, which the company said would remain at the heart of the brand, is eaten in a quarter of all UK households.