US food group Sara Lee said it will place greater emphasis on the value of its products in a bid to appeal to cost-conscious consumers in the current economic downturn.

Speaking at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York (CAGNY) yesterday (17 February), CEO Brenda Barnes said the company will position food products as more “affordable” by offering new versions of products at lower prices.

“We will continue to expand promotional spending especially in Europe to make sure we reach our consumers and grow or maintain our market share,” Barnes said. “This will mean more coupons and in-store executions – they are continuing to be an important part of consumer spend.

Barnes said the company will focus on “affordable innovation” and delivering new versions of products at lower prices, such as re-sealable package for Hillshire Farm deli meats, individually wrapped Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches or pre-sliced food service pies.

“We have a portfolio that lends itself well to tough times and we are featuring those attributes in our marketing,” Barnes added.

The company, which raised prices last year to offset higher ingredient and production costs, said it has become more “nimble” in dealing with pricing.

Speaking to just-food yesterday, a spokesperson for Sara Lee said that it is continually evaluating its product portfolio and trimming unprofitable lines.

“Streamlining the business to become more profitable is a process we started a couple of years ago…. One measure we are introducing is to reduce complexity, including reducing the number of products we offer,” the spokesperson revealed.

Sara Lee has not published specific reduction targets, however, the spokesperson said current trading conditions have increased the necessity of these cuts.

“The economic downturn adds an element of urgency to the efficiency gains we were already working towards,” the spokesperson said.