Seven years after it dove headlong into bread, Sara Lee has built the nation's best-selling brand, and sales have been climbing despite a big run-up in commodity costs. Over the years, it has shed 72
regional bread brands and currently has 46, but it has focused on building a national brand under the well-known Sara Lee name.
Bread is a supermarket's No. 2 food sales category after
chilled meats, but it's also a business that's still highly fragmented and lacking in national brands. The nation's top three bread producers --Sara Lee; George Weston, which makes Brownberry; and
Flowers Foods, which makes Nature's Own -- each had only 9% to 10% market share in 2008, according to Information Resources Inc.
Sara Lee came up with one of the biggest innovations in the
bread world in recent years: Soft & Smooth. A bread with 30% whole grains, it's aimed at providing more nutrition than white bread but with white-bread texture. Soft & Smooth has become Sara Lee's
best-selling bread line, and has prompted competitors to offer their own whole-grain hybrids.
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