The 10,000 square-foot facility – located at the company’s recently launched Oakbrook Terrace headquarters in Chicago, Illinois – houses a test kitchen, laboratory, storage and customer presentation space.
It will specifically focus on the expansion of new product lines and flavors for Sara Lee Frozen Bakery brands.
The US frozen bakery market is forecast to exceed $9.3bn by 2024, particularly fuelled by the rapidly growing foodservice arena in the US, according to Global Market Insights.
The ready-to-bake segment is one of the fastest-growing segments in the frozen bakery market, due to the drifting consumer preference towards convenience products.
Frozen goods are also known for their preserved taste and longer shelf life.
Ready-to-bake products also allow outlets the freedom to offer a range of quality ‘just-baked’ products with minimal labor requirements.
The Kitchens of Sara Lee
“The Kitchens of Sara Lee is a milestone in our journey to becoming the world’s most beloved bakery,” said Craig Bahner, CEO, Sara Lee Frozen Bakery.
“This new collaborative space brings our culinary experts together with our sales and marketing team to accelerate our product innovation, anticipate new trends and create many more irresistible foods for our customers for years to come.”
The company has appointed Judy Lindsey as its R&D director to lead the company’s team of product innovators and culinary experts, which has doubled in size since Sara Lee Frozen Bakery became an independent company in July 2018.
Last year, private equity firm Kohlberg & Co. acquired Sara Lee Frozen Bakery from Tyson Foods for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition also included the Van’s, Chef Pierre and Bistro Collection brands that were part of Tyson’s frozen bakery business portfolio.
“Our team has a singular focus on frozen baked goods,” said Lindsey.
“We now have an incredible kitchen and lab where we can transform fresh ideas into new products and packaging faster and better than ever before.
“With a space designed for close collaboration with our customers, we will continue to grow and innovate our company’s premier brands.”
Morgan Harbour Construction handled the five-month build of the new kitchen, while Oakbrook-based EWP Architects was retained to optimize the space.
Sara Lee Frozen Bakery also operates two production plants in Traverse City, Michigan, and Tarboro, North Carolina.