SNEAK PEEK: Hillshire Brands' Connolly looks toward a new beginning

by Staff
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DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. – The iconic Sara Lee logo welcoming visitors to the parking lot of Sara Lee’s former headquarters has been replaced with a clean, newly designed Hillshire Brands sign and logo. The once hard-to-miss crimson moniker on the building has also been removed, marking the June 28 spin-off of Sara Lee’s international coffee and tea business and new name and mission for its meat business, Hillshire Brands Company. Inside, the company’s office is in transition as plans to move the headquarters to Chicago’s West Loop are slated for January. The move, according to Sean Connolly, Hillshire’s CEO, marks a new era for the company and is symbolic of a renewed focus for a leadership team that is honed on new ideas and innovation.

Also symbolic was the July 3 ringing of the New York Stock Exchange opening bell as Hillshire Brands Corp. (NYSE: HSH) made its Wall Street debut.

“When we rang the bell at the stock exchange, it was really representative of a new beginning,” Connolly told Meat&Poultry, in an interview for the publication’s September cover story. Ringing the NYSE opening bell was a celebration for Connelly and his team to put the spinoff behind them, while recognizing the work had just begun in accomplishing the goals of the “new” company. Those goals are based on capitalizing on its established brands, which include Jimmy Dean, Ball Park, Hillshire Farm and State Fair, while growing its Aidells and Gallo artisanal brands.

“We’ve got the credentials of well-established brands, but we also have the energy of a start up,” he said, adding that there is a corporate mandate to innovate across all of the brands.

Leading this charge is Sally Grimes, who was appointed chief innovation officer this past July. Connolly said Grimes brings a skill set to Hillshire that is focused on consumer marketing and innovation. Her appointment marks the first time the company has had a fully dedicated innovation group reporting directly to the CEO. The goal for innovation was quantified as a percent of the company’s annual revenue, which historically has been in the 9 percent to 10 percent range. Grimes and her team have been challenged to push the needle to 13 percent to 15 percent over the next three years. “She has a crystal clear endgame,” he said, which includes plenty of backing and empowerment throughout the leadership team.

Read more about Sean Connolly’s vision for Hillshire Brands in the September issue of Meat&Poultry.

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