US food group Sara Lee today (17 April) announced the opening of a new North American innovation centre, “The Kitchens of Sara Lee”.

The 120,000-square-foot R&D facility is located at the company’s headquarters in Downers Grove, Illinois, and will house more than 100 research and development professionals.

The facility, which began construction in March 2007, is the first time the company has housed its North American R&D capabilities under one roof.

“Our dedication to innovation, and in turn increasing consumer and customer value, has been an integral part of Sara Lee’s transformation,” said chairman and CEO Brenda Barnes.

“Now, with The Kitchens of Sara Lee, we are fully equipped to turn consumer insights into products that differentiate us in the marketplace.”

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The facility will allow research and development teams to test products, processes and preparations before implementing mass production, Sara Lee said. It will focus on innovation in packaging, meat, baked goods and foodservice. The facility is also equipped with sensory and product performance labs, which will assist in turning consumer insights into value added products.

Sara Lee said that the new facility’s flexibility would allow the company to further improve innovation processes, bringing the research and development teams closer to the brands on which they work, increasing speed-to-market for new products.

“Our vision is to be the most insightful, most innovative and most disciplined food company in the categories we operate in. The Kitchens of Sara Lee represents an exciting new stage for our innovation vision,” said Philippe Schaillee, vice president, marketing, strategy and research and development.

“By connecting our consumer, customer and operator insights to the product development process, the new facility will enable our teams to increase success rates for new products.”