MINNEAPOLIS — Green Giant, one of Minnesota’s best known brands for nearly a century, is moving to New Jersey.

General Mills Inc., which picked up Green Giant in its 2001 merger with Pillsbury Co., agreed on Thursday to sell the business to B&G Foods for $765 million in cash.

The deal is B&G’s largest purchase and will nearly double the company’s size.

It also immediately raises B&G’s profile with retailers as one of the biggest purveyors of vegetables in North America.

For General Mills, Green Giant’s $585 million in annual sales represented only about 4 percent of its overall business. The company put it up for sale earlier this year as part of a broader effort to focus on faster growing businesses.

Green Giant’s frozen and canned vegetables also have come under competitive pressure, and its sales were about $100 million higher several years ago. General Mills earlier this year took a $260 million charge it said was related to the value of Green Giant.

Even so, General Mills chief executive Ken Powell said earlier this year Green Giant is “a good, profitable brand.”

The sale is an “acknowledgment of the challenges facing the frozen vegetable business, which has been losing out as consumers maintain a penchant for fresh fare,” Morningstar analyst Erin Lash wrote in a research note.

Other major consumer product companies – including Campbell Soup, Kraft and Unilever – have also “shed noncore brands to focus resources on the highest return opportunities,” Lash wrote.

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