Sara Lee to introduce new products throughout world

by FoodBusinessNews.net Staff
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DOWNERS GROVE, ILL. — At the recent "Meet the Management" meeting held at the Sara Lee headquarters, the company outlined plans to launch about 25 new products in fiscal 2008 through Sara Lee Food & Beverage as well as other new product introductions in other segments.

The new food and beverage products include Sara Lee Ultra Premium lunchmeat and Hillshire Farm Hearty Slices lunchmeat.

"We’ve developed and demonstrated core capabilities to drive innovation, enter high-opportunity geographies and achieve operating efficiencies, all enabling us to deliver continued superior value to our consumers and customers," said Brenda C. Barnes, chairman and chief executive officer of Sara Lee Corp. "We have the right plans, the right people and the right brands in place to leverage the many growth opportunities throughout all of our businesses."

In addition, Sara Lee Foodservice will introduce Caffiato, an iced coffee and tea system, and Toastworks, toasted sandwiches developed through a partnership with TurboChef Technologies, Inc.

The company said its focus in the Foodservice segment is on expanding margins through an improved product mix, accelerating profitable growth through innovation and building customer management capability.

In the International Beverage segment, the company plans to introduce Senseco Café Choco, a new offering from Senseo; a liquid coffee concentrate; and Flavorit, an extension to coffee machines that allows customers to customize their coffees with different flavors. In terms of emerging markets for this international segment, the company is focusing on the Moccona Premium Selection coffee and the St. Petersburg market in Russia. If market conditions are favorable, the company said it will expand nationwide in Russia in 2009. In Brazil, Sara Lee has the No. 1 share position with its combined brands, and the company’s strategy in Brazil has been shifting from volume to value.

The company said in fiscal 2008, the international beverage segment will focus on maintaining attractive margins and expanding its product portfolio and geographic reach.

New whole grain bread and pancakes filled with fruits, eggs and breakfast meat are among 25 new products the company plans to launch in its North American food and beverage business during fiscal 2008 in an effort to leverage growth opportunities throughout the company’s businesses.

Christopher Fraleigh, head of Sara Lee Food & Beverage, said the core driver of margin expansion within the division will be the innovation pipeline. Since 2005, Sara Lee has accounted for approximately 50% of the new product innovation for the entire U.S. fresh bakery category, according to Information Resources, Inc. data cited by Sara Lee.

Among the new products on tap for the remainder of 2008 are new flavors of Sara Lee snackable pies and Stuffins, a combination of warm pancakes coupled with fruit, eggs and breakfast meat in a convenient hand-held form.

Sara Lee said Stuffins were developed to capitalize on three trends: away-from-home breakfast, snacking and portable foods.

Sara Lee does not expect to grow by new products, alone, though. The company said its retail bakery segment will focus on expanding margins, making operational improvements and growing the Sara Lee brand through innovation and improved product mix.

"The bakery industry is facing additional increases in commodity costs," the company said. "To offset this, Sara Lee will continue to improve the productivity of its operations and take price increases as necessary."

On Sept. 10, Sara Lee said its U.S. fresh bakery business raised the price of many of its branded products by an average of 10c at retail, and also increased the prices of many of its non-branded businesses.

Sara Lee reaffirmed its fiscal 2008 forecast at 95c to $1.01 per share on sales of more than $12.6 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expect earnings of 94c per share on sales of $12.8 billion.

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