The chairman and CEO of the food group Sara Lee Corporation has reported solid progress in the company's transformation plans announced last year.

Speaking at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York's (CAGNY) annual conference, Brenda C. Barnes said that with the first year of the transformation complete, milestones had been reached on the three aims of the programme: organising business operations around consumers, customers and geographic markets; achieving operational efficiency to fund growth; and focusing the portfolio.

"Just one year into implementing our plan, we are much closer to our goal of transforming Sara Lee into a world-class integrated operating company and we are confident that we have the right plan and the right people in place to get the job done," said Barnes. "We are pleased with the tremendous progress we have made in the first year, especially organising our company to be closer to our consumers and customers as well as taking the necessary portfolio actions, including divesting the direct selling, US retail coffee and European branded apparel businesses, to better focus our company."

Barnes emphasised that the company was committed to growing sales by creating innovative, new products, such as Sara Lee Soft & Smooth whole-grain white bread, Jimmy Dean Skillets, Ambi Pur 3volution and Senseo cappuccino.

"As we move forward with the transformation, we will increase our focus on improving operational efficiency that will drive cost savings - an area where we already are making great strides - and more effective execution across our business," she said.

In addition, LM (Theo) de Kool, chief financial and administrative officer, speaking at the same conference, said he anticipates the group will achieve a compound annual rate of growth of between 4% and 5% by fiscal 2010, which is when the company expects to complete the transformation programme.

De Kool also said the group expects to have a 12% operating margin by fiscal 2010, driven by margin growth in all business segments, especially North American retail meats, North American retail bakery and international bakery.