Sara Lee Frozen Bakery Goes Premium

Sara Lee

The Sara Lee Frozen Bakery starts a new business era, with a focus on its Sara Lee, Van’s, Chef Pierre and Bistro Collection brands, especially in the fast-growing premium dessert foodservice market.

The decision came after the sale of Tyson Foods’ Frozen Bakery business to private equity firm Kohlberg & Company. Sara Lee Frozen Bakery will establish its headquarters in the Chicago suburb of Oakbrook Terrace, and continue operations at two manufacturing facilities in Traverse City, Michigan, and Tarboro, North Carolina, just outside of Raleigh-Durham.

The new management team, led by CEO Craig Bahner, president and head of sales Don Davis, and chief financial officer Jeff Gronbeck, will recruit 60-80 new senior-level professionals in the areas of sales and marketing, research and development, finance, human resources, and supply chain, bolstering the resources and team needed to accelerate innovation in these competitive categories. The new company will employ approximately 1,300 people at the headquarters and plant locations.

Bahner, who has a long history of building iconic brands at Procter & Gamble, Wendy’s and Kellogg Company, said: “Tyson Foods did a great job with this portfolio of businesses, but their primary focus was on protein. Moving the frozen bakery products into a standalone company concentrated in the frozen bakery business will enable us to continue delivering quality products while accelerating growth, increasing innovation and achieving operational excellence.”

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to energize this outstanding portfolio of brands,” said chairman CJ Fraleigh, who worked for Sara Lee from 2005 to 2011, including serving as its North American CEO. “We have assembled an exceptional management team, and our partners at Kohlberg have a long track record of success in carve-outs and reemerging businesses. Together we will accelerate Sara Lee® Frozen Bakery’s growth.”

In addition to hiring new employees, Sara Lee Frozen Bakery will invest in its research and development efforts, and will soon begin building a new R&D facility and test kitchen, including a pilot plant. This facility will be co-located with the corporate headquarters to facilitate collaboration and accelerate innovation.

“From this point onward, our customers will benefit from Sara Lee Frozen Bakery’s singular focus on being the frozen bakery products of choice, and we’re investing in our people, processes, and infrastructure to make it happen,” said president and head of sales, Don Davis.

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