Sara Lee (brand)

Sara Lee Corporation
Industry Consumer goods
Fate Split
Successor(s) Hillshire Brands
D.E Master Blenders 1753
Founded 1939 By Dale Rosenau
Defunct 2012
Headquarters Downers Grove, Illinois, US
Key people Jan Bennink (Chairman)
Marcel Smits (CEO)
Products Food, beverage, and household and body care products

The Sara Lee Corporation (Former NYSE ticker symbol: SLE) was an American consumer-goods company based in Downers Grove, Illinois.[1][2] It had operations in more than 40 countries and sold its products in over 180 nations worldwide. Its international operations were headquartered in Utrecht, Netherlands.

Sara Lee is also the brand name of a number of frozen and packaged foods, often known for the long-running slogan "Everybody doesn't like something, but nobody doesn't like Sara Lee," often incorrectly reported as "Nobody does it like Sara Lee."[3] In 2006, Sara Lee announced a new company wide campaign: "the joy of eating." The campaign is part of a restructuring at Sara Lee.

The company traced its lineage to 1939, when Nathan Cummings acquired C.D. Kenny Company, a wholesale distributor of sugar, coffee and tea in Baltimore, and created Consolidated Foods Corporation. In 1956 the company bought a company known as Kitchens of Sara Lee, which became one of the company's best-known brand names. In 1985 management adopted the brand name as the name of the corporation as a whole. As of 2006, Sara Lee Corporation has operations in more than 40 countries; sells food, beverage and household products in over 180 countries; and has some 40,000 employees worldwide.

On July 4, 2012, Sara Lee Corporation was split into two companies—one for North American operations which would be renamed Hillshire Brands (the Sara Lee name would continue to be used on bakery and certain deli products distributed by Hillshire Brands), the other for international beverage and bakery businesses named D.E Master Blenders 1753.[4]


Prior to 1985, The Sara Lee Corporation was called Consolidated Foods, of which Sara Lee was the best known brand. Consolidated Foods had bought a Chicago bakery chain called Kitchens of Sara Lee in 1956 from Charles Lubin. Lubin had named his bakeries after his daughter, Sara Lee. She was born in 1941, and now goes by her married name, Sara Lee Schupf.[5]

In 1986, Sara Lee bought the manufacturing and mail order operations of Wolferman's, a maker of English muffins, that dated back to 1888.[6]

On June 25, 2001, Sara Lee Corp pled guilty to a misdemeanor and agrees to pay $4.4 million for selling tainted meat blamed for at least 15 deaths and six miscarriages in 1998; The agreement stressed that Sara Lee's Bil Mar Foods division did not knowingly distribute the tainted meat.[7] On August 7, 2001, Sara Lee Corp cleared the last remaining regulatory hurdle in its purchase of Earthgrains Co, receiving approval from the European Commission (S).[8]

Brenda C. Barnes joined Sara Lee Corporation in July 2004 as the President and Chief Operating Officer. Then in February 2005, Barnes was named President and Chief Executive Officer, and the corporation announced it would move its headquarters from Cincinnati, Ohio to Downers Grove, Illinois, which housed the company’s North American operating businesses and the majority of Sara Lee’s corporate staff.

Also in February 2005, the company began executing a multi-year plan to transform Sara Lee into a company focused on its food, beverage, and household and body care businesses around the world. To support that focus, Sara Lee announced plans to dispose of approximately 40 percent of the company’s revenues, including its apparel, European packaged meats, US retail coffee and direct selling businesses. On December 22, 2005, Sara Lee Corporation was to delist from Euronext Amsterdam and Euronext Paris stock exchanges, as well as the Swiss Exchange. The company said it was taking the voluntary step due to low trading volumes on those exchanges.[9]

In addition, as part of the transformation, Sara Lee organized its operation around its customers, consumers and geographies to better serve the ever-changing global marketplace.

2005 also saw the début of Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Made with Whole Grain White Bread. In October, Barnes succeeded C. Steven McMillan as chairman. The year ended with the sale of the direct selling business to Tupperware.

2006 featured the divestiture of Sara Lee's European meats and European branded apparel businesses. In addition, the corporation spun off to its shareholders the Branded Apparel, Americas/Asia, business, into a separate, publicly traded company called HanesBrands Inc.

Including the spin-off, Sara Lee raised more than $3.7 billion in proceeds as part of the company’s transformation plan. In addition to the monetary benefits, the company is now tightly focused on its core businesses—food, beverage, and household and body care.

By 2009, Sara Lee was pursuing the sale of its Household and Body Care business in their continuing effort to focus on core business.[10] In April, Sara Lee launched a state-of-the-art research and development center named The Kitchens of Sara Lee, a 120,000-square-foot (11,000 m2) campus at the company’s headquarters in Downers Grove, Ill.[11]

On 25 September 2009, Sara Lee announced it accepted a binding offer by Unilever for €1.275 billion to sell its global body care and European detergents business.[12] The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and consultation with European employee works councils.[13]

On 9 November 2010, Sara Lee said that by selling its North American Fresh Bakery unit to Grupo Bimbo, it could grow in other areas. The $959 million deal gives Sara Lee the right to continue using the Sara Lee name on frozen desserts and meat products. Grupo Bimbo will use the Sara Lee name for fresh-baked products around the world except for Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The deal also means Grupo Bimbo gets 41 plants and the regional brands Grandma Sycamore's, Heiner's and Rainbo.[14]

On 28 January 2011, Sara Lee announced the company would be split into two units. The company said its North American operations (including Jimmy Dean, Ball Park and Hillshire Farm) would take the Hillshire Brands corporate name, while the international beverage and bakery businesses (including Douwe Egberts, Senseo, Pickwick, Maison du Café, L'OR, Café Pilão, and Marcilla) would constitute a separate unit named D.E Master Blenders 1753. Some analysts claimed splitting the business into two units would make a takeover more likely. Stockholders would have equal shares in both companies. In the same month, Sara Lee received noted media attention regarding their strategy to "refocus on the core" to revamp the company. In a Forbes magazine column, Adam Hartung stated Sara Lee couldn’t "cost-cut, refocus or re-align a business to success with no new products and no growth plan."[15] Also, Marcel Smits, interim CEO since Barnes left due to a stroke, became the new CEO, and Jan Bennink director and chairman.[4] The split was completed on July 4, 2012.

The company will move its headquarters back to Chicago in 2013.[16]



Former members of the board of directors of Sara Lee are: Christopher B. Begley, Crandall Bowles, Virgis W. Colbert, James S. Crown, Laurette T. Koellner, Dr. John McAdam, Sir Ian Prosser, Rozanne L. Ridgway, Norman R. Sorensen, Jeffrey W. Ubben, Cees J.A. van Lede, Jonathan Ward.





Sara Lee Corporation announced in 2006 that it had completed the sale of its branded apparel business in Europe to an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners, Inc. Such brands included Dim, Playtex, Wonderbra, Lovable, Abanderado, Nur Die, Unno, Bellinda. Sara Lee Corporation has announced on Sept 28th, 2009, that it has received a binding offer for its Global Body Care and European Detergents to Unilever for €1.275 billion. On June 1, 2010 Sara Lee announced it had completed the sale of its 51 percent stake in its Godrej Sara Lee joint venture to Godrej Consumer Products Ltd. for a total consideration of €185 million ($230 million). On June 15, 2010, the company announced that it had received a binding offer of $153.5 million for its remaining insecticides business.[18] The offer is dependent on European Union antitrust approval; the decision is due May 2, 2011.[18] On July 5, 2010, Sara Lee completed the sale of its Ambi Pur air care business to Procter & Gamble for €320 million. On April 4, 2011, Sara Lee completed the sale of its Kiwi shoe care business to SC Johnson for €245 million.[19] On 2010, Sara Lee completed the sale of White King and Janola brands to Symex for €38 million. In addition, Sara Lee announced the pending sale of its non-Indian insecticides business to SC Johnson for €153.5 million.

In 2010, Sara Lee divested its North American fresh bakery business to Grupo Bimbo.

In 2012, Hillshire Brands sold its Australian bakery operations to McCain Foods.[20]


On November 19, 2008, Sara Lee Corporation announced that it will close its kosher hot dog and meat processing facility in Chicago, on or before January 30, 2009. Sara Lee has decided to exit the kosher meat business and discontinue processing and distributing products made under all of its kosher meat brands, including: Best’s Kosher, Sinai Kosher, Shofar and Wilno.[21]

Consumer Relations

Throughout 2012, Sara Lee contributed $343,600 to a $46 million political campaign known as "The Coalition Against The Costly Food Labeling Proposition, sponsored by Farmers and Food Producers"[22] This organization was set up to oppose a citizen's initiative, known as Proposition 37, demanding mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients. As a result, there is a growing boycott of their products across North America.[23]

The Sara Lee Foundation

The Sara Lee Foundation was founded in 1981 to formalize Sara Lee's dedication to community services. By giving cash contributions, product donations, and volunteers, the foundation has grown touching millions of lives, helping those in need and fostering diverse artistic expression.

See also

Chicago portal
Companies portal
Food portal

Notes and references

External links

  • Official website
  • Company Site
  • Nathan Cummings Founder
  • Ambi Pur Brand website
  • Cruz+Verde Insecticides website
  • Sara Lee Foundation official