The Green Giant meets the Golden Commode


It’s easy to feel, in this small world that is the HME industry, that you’re the only ones going through so much change.

You might ask yourself, is any other industry part of such a seismic shift in the way goods and services are delivered? Is any other industry, as part of that shift, seeing its revenues cut nearly in half?

Of course, the HME industry is not the only industry going through so much change.

This hit me in the side of the head yesterday on my commute home.

I was listening to a story on NPR about a makeover at food giant General Mills. You probably heard the company’s announcement this week that it is removing artificial colors and flavors from its cereal line. (This is good news for a semi-rehabilitated Lucky Charms fan like myself.)

But there’s more to the story, as NPR found out.

General Mills is in the midst of overhauling a number of its food lines, including the iconic Green Giant, which sells some 140 different kinds of vegetable products.

For some perspective, picture the Green Giant and a Golden Commode. They’re both throwbacks to an era gone by.

You see, canned and frozen vegetables don’t have the same appeal they once had. With farm shares, farm-to-table restaurants and farm stands inside grocery stores, consumers expect, and increasingly get, fresh vegetables.

“I think there’s been a pretty dramatic shift across the grocery aisle in the last five years,” Justin Massa, founder of the research firm Food Genius, told NPR. “There’s kind of very few sacred cows in the grocery store.”

Kind of like there are very few sacred products in the HME industry?

Faced with this shift in consumer tastes and the subsequent slowdown in growth, General Mills has two choices, Massa says: It can cut costs by merging (a la Heinz and Kraft); or it can try to increase revenues with products that are more in line with consumer demands.

So, cut costs and shift product mix. Sound familiar?

General Mills is trying to do both. To make its products more in line with consumer demands, for example, it will launch a new line of frozen vegetables this summer—think Brussells sprouts with lentils—that are meant to be sautéed quickly, rather than microwaved, improving their taste and texture.

HME and food are apples and oranges, so to speak, but the themes here are similar.

Only, where the HME industry is dealing with fickle payers like Medicare, General Mills is dealing with fickle consumers.

I’m not sure which is more of a challenge.