Hillshire says promise in NPD pipeline

Hillshire says promise in NPD pipeline

US ggroup Hillshire Brands plans to accelerate the growth of its core brands through higher investment in innovation and marketing.

Addressing the investment community at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference yesterday (20 February), Hillshire management outlined its ambition to drive the top-line growth of its Jimmy Dean, Ball Park, Hillshire Farm and Sara Lee brands.

Hillshire is ramping up investment in innovation while "sharpening" marketing tools, CEO Sean Connolly revealed. He added the group will increase its investment in marketing, advertising and promotions to 5% of revenue by 2015.

"We remain focused on... strengthening our strong brands with leading innovation and marketing support," Connolly told his audience in Florida. He added Hillshire intends to create a "sustainable" innovation pipeline and "reinvigorate" consumer insights.

Connoly unveiled a swathe of product launches that the company has planned for the coming year, including: "better quality" Sara Lee deli meat, a Hillshire Farm quality smoked sausage and "indulgent" breakfasts from Jimmy Dean, such as a breakfast sandwich with two sausage patties.

The group also hopes to grow sales of its key brands by expanding them into adjacent product categories. It is launching hot dogs under corn dog brand State Fair. A chipotle chicken meatloaf and habanero chili chicken meatballs will be added to its Aidells range, Hillshire revealed. The company has already launched Jimmy Dean flatbread breakfast sandwiches, including the brand's first meatless option.

While Hillshire is upping its brand-building investment, it is simultaneously working to improve its operational performance through an efficiency programme.

"It is still early days," Connolly conceded. However, he added he was "quite encouraged" by the progress that has been made.