Sara Lee has said that during its long-term transformation from a diversified holding company into an integrated operating company it has adopted a disciplined approach to innovation - dubbed 'the funnel to the tunnel'. This approach, the company suggested, is key to its future growth.

Speaking at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York, Brenda C Barnes, Sara Lee chairman and CEO, highlighted a number of successful examples where this approach has paid off.

"Our disciplined innovation process - which we call 'the funnel to the tunnel' - is responsible for a number of successful new Sara Lee products, including Ambi Pur 3volution, Douwe Egberts Café Switch, Hillshire Farm Entrée Salads, Jimmy Dean Skillets and Breakfast Bowls, and Sara Lee Soft & Smooth bakery products, as well as new foodservice offerings, such as Sara Lee Restaurant Reserve and Bistro Collection cheesecakes and the Douwe Egberts C-60 coffee machine," said Barnes. "Sara Lee employees around the world are collaborating to translate consumer and customer insights into winning, on-trend products and services faster than ever before."

Illustrating successful innovation that the company has undertaken in the past year, Barnes considered the growth of Sara Lee's bakery division which, she said, has been driven by new product development. Over the past year, the company has introduced a number of new products to market, including Whole Grain White Bread, Healthy & Delicious Breads and Breakfast Breads.

Reviewing Sara Lee's new strategic framework, Barnes said the company had adopted a holistic approach to driving growth.

"We have made significant progress in transforming Sara Lee," added Barnes. "We have a strong team in place, an evolving culture of teamwork and success, great opportunities for sales and margin growth across our business, and the plans in place to continue to deliver solid results."

Barnes noted that Sara Lee expects to see overall margin improvement in fiscal 2007, adding that in the first half of 2007 base business performance improved at foodservice, North American retail bakery, international beverage, and household and body care.