DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. (April 17, 2009) -- Sara Lee Corp. announced today the grand opening of The Kitchens of Sara Lee, a new, 120,000-square-foot R&D center that brings the company's marketing and R&D efforts under one roof a few blocks away from the corporate headquarters.
Tulin Tuzel, vice president of research & development, said the center plays directly into the hands of what R&D is all about.
"Innovation today is about teamwork, and this facility is about bringing together a wide variety of teams to develop and ideate a diverse set of potential products," she explained.
Sara Lee began construction on the facility in March 2007, and it houses more than 100 chefs, scientists, engineers and packaging designers in several core areas of Sara Lee's North American food business. The Kitchens of Sara Lee includes:
  • A packaging design and research laboratory, where Sara Lee's packaging designers and engineers can create all sorts of packaging, whether it's a new idea for a new product or a renovation of a current package in the company's system.
  • A comprehensive meat pilot plant, meeting USDA regulations, with raw processing, cook and chill operations, and an RTE room where product can be sliced (if needed) packaged and assembled.
  • A bakery pilot plant, where Sara Lee's bakery division innovations begin and are tested in this USDA-inspected facility.
  • Beverage lab, for development of Sara Lee's large beverage portfolio.
  • A foodservice kitchen and a separate Product Performance Kitchen, where products are tested in real-life conditions for both the retail and foodservice end users' benefit.
Philippe Schaillee, vice president, marketing, strategy and research and development, explained that The Kitchens of Sara Lee bolsters the company's efforts in the area of innovation by allowing the company to improve the efficiency of the product-development process, now that all parties are in the same location.
"The Kitchens of Sara Lee represents an exciting new stage for our innovation vision," he said. "By connecting our consumer, customer and operator insights to the product-development process, the new facility will enable our teams to increase success rates for new products."
Brenda Barnes, chairman and CEO of Sara Lee Corp., who presided over the event and led the dedication of the center, said the facility improves Sara Lee's edge in the markets in which it plays.
"There is great innovation in taking our core brands from being smaller brands to very large brands, such as taking us from being in the No. 2 position to No. 1 in a category," Barnes said. "We are the country's best-selling hot dog, and that came about because of our focus on innovation around Ball Park, and we think that's an innovation breakthrough. It's a massive increase in volume and market share.
"If you take an idea and stretch it, the potential is just enormous," she added. "And if you focus your marketing dollars [there], it touches a whole platform, and with the efficiencies in marketing, you can drive a lot of business out of that."
Both Barnes and Schaillee agreed that The Kitchens of Sara Lee will build upon the successful product home runs of recent years for the company, including Ball Park Angus Beef Franks, Jimmy Dean Breakfast Bowls and Skillets and Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Whole Grain White Bread, among others.