Sara Lee Corp. said that Chairman and CEO Brenda Barnes, who has been on a temporary medical leave of absence, is recovering from a stroke.

“I know there has been a lot of speculation on my condition, so I want to take the opportunity to provide some details,” said Barnes. “I suffered a stroke a few weeks ago, and I am now in the process of recuperating.”

The company intends to provide an update on Barnes’ condition and her future plans by its end-of-year earnings call on August 12.

On May 14th, Sara Lee’s board of directors named Marcel Smits, executive vice president and chief financial officer, as interim CEO, and James S. Crown, lead independent director, assumed the role of chairman. The company also formed an Office of the Chairman comprised of Crown, Smits and Christopher John (CJ) Fraleigh, chief executive officer of North American Retail and Foodservice.

“I’m pleased to see how effectively our interim team is performing in executing our ongoing strategy and moving the company forward during my absence,” said Barnes. “I’m fully confident in this team and grateful for their expertise and leadership during this time, and also want to thank everyone for their thoughts and support during my absence. It’s truly appreciated.”

“We’re pleased to know that Brenda is on the mend and we wish her a speedy recovery,” said Crown. “On behalf of the entire Board of directors, I’d like to thank the dedicated senior leaders at Sara Lee who continue to do an excellent job in Brenda’s absence.”

Source: Sara Lee Corp.

Rastelli Foods plans $22 million expansion

Rastelli Foods Group, located in Swedesboro, N.J., has announced plans for a $22 million plant expansion that will nearly triple the size of the plant and add 120 employees to the company’s current workforce of 625.

The addition of 91,000 square feet to the 49,000 square feet built six years ago continues the rapid growth of Rastelli Foods, which has its roots in a butcher shop opened in Oak Valley, Gloucester County, in 1976, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Rastelli Foods evolved into a big supplier of beef to high-end steak houses, as well as chains with 1,000 locations. But a big driver of the latest expansion is RastelliDirect, a new effort to sell to consumers over the Internet.

"It brings us really full circle back to what we started 34 years ago," explained Ray Rastelli, president, who said the private company is on track to have nearly $1 billion in revenue this year.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer

Pierre Foods offers healthier school lunch options

Cincinnati-based Pierre Foods Inc. announced a new line of more nutritious menu options that will be making an impact in school cafeterias across the country this coming school year. Smart Picks will be officially unveiled at the School Nutrition Association's Annual National Conference next month, and they will be ready to serve in school cafeterias when school begins this August.

Pierre Foods' new Smart Picks products will include a variety of items that have one or more of the following attributes: reduced sodium, a good source of protein, zero grams of trans fat, no hydrogenated oils, made with whole grains, a good source of fiber and reduced fat.

"For more than 30 years, Pierre Foods has been creating school menu options that contribute to a healthy lifestyle and Smart Picks is the latest step in that progression," said Bill Toler, CEO of Pierre Foods. "In 1996, we developed our popular grilled teriyaki chicken dippers as an alternative to fried chicken nuggets. Today, Pierre continues to work closely with school foodservice directors, monitoring school menu needs to ensure that its meal offerings are nutritious, while maintaining high quality, taste and value."

Pierre Foods' Smart Picks line will offer schools more than 60 menu choices, including all-beef hamburger patties, which have 37 percent less sodium than current patties; grilled chicken patties, which contain less than 15 percent of the recommended daily allowance of sodium; and macaroni and cheese, which is made with whole grain pasta and is an excellent source of protein.

"Pierre recognizes that childhood obesity is a serious issue and applauds First Lady Michelle Obama's efforts to combat the problem," said Toler. "As a company that serves 90 of the nation's 100 largest school districts, we are constantly challenging ourselves to create new products for schools with reduced sodium and fat content, but that students will still choose and enjoy. We are delighted that our Smart Picks will provide more opportunities for children to eat 'smarter' school meals starting this fall."

Source: Pierre Foods Inc.

Pork industry to move on from “The Other White Meat”

For more than two decades, pork has been known as "The Other White Meat." Now industry insiders think it's time the meat got a new reputation.

The National Pork Board plans to replace its ubiquitous advertising slogan with something officials hope will improve stagnant sales. The slogan, first launched 23 years ago, was successful in rebranding the meat as a dinnertime favorite.

"It did its job, for sure, back in 1987. It was phenomenal," said Ceci Snyder, the Des Moines-based board's vice president of marketing, reports the Associated Press. "It really changed minds."

Television commercials featured the slogan and showed pork surrounded by other healthy foods to illustrate how pork had fewer calories than one would think. But over time, Snyder said, people forgot what the tagline meant, and it doesn't seem to have helped sales, which for decades have hovered near 50 pounds a year for the average American. Chicken, by contrast, has grown from roughly 55 pounds per American in 1988 to more than 83 pounds per American in 2008.

"We don't think flat is acceptable," Snyder said.

The slogan was developed in 1987 to change public perception of a product many viewed as a fatty meat you shouldn't serve to guests. It was meant to tout pork's nutritional value and versatility, and to align it more with chicken than beef.

Snyder said the board won't completely drop "The Other White Meat" as a marketing tool, but it will no longer be the focal point of the group's advertising efforts. The launch date for a new branding campaign is March 2011.

Source: AP

San Diego restaurant hosting World Cup of Sausages

The Linkery, San Diego's popular farm-to-table restaurant, is hosting the World Cup of Sausages in conjunction with Word Cup 2010 soccer starting from June 11 to July 11. This event combines the biggest sporting event with a celebration global-theme, world-class sausage making by Michael McGuan, artisan curer and sausage maker at the Linkery. For a full month, it’s a battle for international sausage supremacy, as fans/diners can watch their favorite teams play soccer and eat a sausage dish representing those World Cup countries.

Each day, The Linkery will show World Cup games, while simultaneously featuring its house-made, hand-crafted sausages from two countries in action -- including the Friday, June 11 tilt between Mexico and South Africa, when longaniza and boerewors sausage are featured. Saturday’s HUGE game between the USA and England features British bangers versus American farmhouse sausage.

The World Cup of Sausages offers one culinary matchup per day of the World Cup. Here’s the schedule for the opening weekend of games and sausages:
Friday 11 June - Open at 6:55am
7:00am - South Africa v. Mexico (Sausages: Boerewors v. Longaniza)
11:30am - Uruguay v. France (Sausages: Grass-fed beef chorizo v. Alsatian -- a late substitute snag)
Saturday 12 June - Open at 6:55am
7:00am - Argentina v. Nigeria
11:30am - England v. USA (Sausages: Banger v. American farmhouse)
Sunday 13 June - Open at 11:00am
11:30am - Germany v. Australia (Sausages: Bratwurst v. Kransky)

The rest of the schedule can be found at the Linkery's Casing the Joint blog. Some culinary pairings are still being determined. All sausage at the Linkery are house-made from humanely-raised, hormone-free animals.

Source: The Linkery