US-based frozen bakery and dessert producer Sara Lee Frozen Bakery has opened a 10,000ft² research and development (R&D) innovation centre and test kitchen at its headquarters in Oakbrook Terrace.

The innovation centre features a fully equipped test kitchen, lab, storage and presentation space. It has been custom designed for customer showcase and co-collaboration.

Sara Lee Frozen Bakery CEO Craig Bahner said: “The Kitchens of Sara Lee is a milestone in our journey to becoming the world’s most beloved 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 innovation centre, called Kitchens of Sara Lee facility, will focus on innovation and expansion of flavours and product lines.

With the opening of the facility, Sara Lee’s marketing and product development teams will be working together for the first time in ten years, with twice the amount of resources dedicated to Sara Lee Frozen Bakery’s brands.

Sara Lee Frozen Bakery R&D director Judy Lindsey said: “Our team has a singular focus on frozen baked goods. 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.”

In December, Sara Lee Frozen Bakery appointed Ryan Malone as chief marketing officer and Wendy Webb Williams as chief legal officer.

These officers, with their decades of food industry experience, were appointed to help lead the company’s efforts to grow Sara Lee, Van’s, Chef Pierre and Bistro Collection brands, which were acquired from Tyson in early 2018.

In February 2013, Hillshire Brands completed the sale of its Australian frozen bakery business, Kitchens of Sara Lee to McCain Foods for A$82m ($85m).

The move was part of Hillshire Brands’ strategy to focus on retail and foodservice segments in North America.