Sara Lee Corp. opened its new North American innovation
campus, The Kitchens of Sara Lee, near its company headquarters in Downers Grove, Ill. The 120,000-sq.-ft. facility houses more than 100 research and development professionals, including chefs, scientists, engineers and packaging designers. This marks the first time the company has had all of its North American food and beverage research and development capabilities under one roof.
“We want to bring value added to the consumer. That’s what this R&D innovation center is about,” said Brenda Barnes, chairman and C.E.O., Sara Lee Corp. “We are fully equipped to turn consumer insights into products that differentiate us in the marketplace.”
The state-of-the-art facility allows research and development teams to test product, processes and preparations before implementing mass production. Located within the innovation center are a bakery bench-top laboratory and a bakery pilot plant equipped with large-capacity mixers, a laminator, sheeter, rounder, rack ovens, a 30-ft. tunnel oven with three separate baking zones and a variety of other production and testing equipment. The center also includes a packaging innovation laboratory with 3-D modeling capabilities and the ability to create graphics.
The new facility positions Sara Lee North American businesses to further improve the innovation process, because the facility offers enhanced flexibility and customizable resources, and it brings research and development teams closer to the brands they work on. The center also is designed around bringing diverse teams together, from marketing to process technology to suppliers, noted Tulin Tuzel, vice president, research and development.
“Our vision is to be the most insightful, most innovative and most disciplined food company in the categories we operate in. The Kitchens of Sara Lee represents an exciting new stage for our innovation vision,” 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 Kitchens of Sara Lee is named in honor of the company founded by Charles Lubin in 1949, which was acquired by Consolidated Foods in 1956. Consoliated Foods became Sara Lee Corp. in 1985. Lubin’s daughter, Sara Lee Schupf, attended the innovation center’s grand opening to acknowledge the dedication in memory of her father.