Innovation centre to help Sara Lee “turn customer insights into products that differentiate”

Posted by Isobel Drake on 20th April 2009

Sara Lee has announced the opening of its new North American innovation campus, The Kitchens of Sara Lee, which they hope will stimulate significant growth in the years ahead.

The 120,000 square-foot research and development centre, located at the company’s headquarters in Illinois, took over two years to construct and houses more than 100 research and development professionals; including chefs, scientists, engineers and packaging designers.

“Our dedication to innovation, and in turn increasing consumer and customer value, has been an integral part of Sara Lee’s transformation,” said Brenda Barnes, Chairman and CEO of Sara Lee. “Now, with The Kitchens of Sara Lee, we are fully equipped to turn consumer insights into products that differentiate us in the marketplace.”

The “state-of-the-art features” of the centre will allow research and development teams to test product, processes and preparations before implementing mass production.

Highlights include:
• Packaging Labs with rapid prototyping capabilities can shape plastic and paper prototypes in minutes and test packaging before suppliers begin production.
• Meat Labs offer bench-top product formulation capabilities, and also simulate Sara Lee plant processes to test product components and packaging prototypes before they enter fullscale production.
• The Bakery Pilot Plant allows a better understanding of how formulas will translate to commercial-size facilities, and offers new process testing and bench-top product formulation.
• Foodservice Kitchens feature plug-and-play equipment that can be custom-arranged to replicate a quick-service restaurant or a foodservice operation.
• Sensory and Product Performance Labs assist with turning consumer insights into desired product attributes and scalable design that increases value to customers.

“Our vision is to be the most insightful, most innovative and most disciplined food company in the categories we operate in,” said Philippe Schaillee, vice president, marketing, strategy and research and development. “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.”

The launch of the new centre is a part of their multi-year transformation strategy, which is reportedly beginning to reap dividends.