Sara Lee touting shifts in its business to markets

CHICAGO: Sara Lee will be reaching out over the next 12 to 18 months to assure key audiences that the new, slimmed-down company will be an easier entity to work with.

CHICAGO: Sara Lee will be reaching out over the next 12 to 18 months to assure key audiences that the new, slimmed-down company will be an easier entity to work with.

Sara Lee announced on February 10 that it would spin off its apparel, European packaged meats, and direct-selling businesses. As it proceeds with those moves, it will tell its customers - supermarkets and food-service operators, specifically - that the changes will make their lives easier.

"Sara Lee is making bold, powerful moves to make sure we're in a position to grow," said Julie Ketay, executive director of corporate media relations.

Once a food-industry powerhouse, Sara Lee has lagged competitors in recent years as it diversified into apparel with such brands as Hanes, Playtex, and Champion.

Its divestiture plans should help revitalize its image, said Ron Culp, formerly executive director of corporate relations at Sara Lee.

"This is going to provide the customer with a much greater focus on the company's strengths," he said.

Culp is now managing director of Citigate Sard Verbinnen's Chicago office.

As part of the company's reorganization, Sara Lee plans to move its bakery division, now in St. Louis, and its foods division, now in Cincinnati, to Chicago. A food-service operation with headquarters in a Chicago suburb also will be moved to corporate headquarters within the city.

The moves will mean relocating the PR people for each of those divisions to Chicago as well, although plans have yet to be finalized, Ketay said.

Sara Lee divisions work with a variety of PR agencies and will continue to do so. Burson-Marsteller has done corporate project work for Sara Lee.

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