Sara Lee’s founder, Charles Lubin, at the age of 32, and his brother-in-law, bought a small chain of neighborhood bakeries called Community Bake Shops. Working together, the business grew in popularity and success and the original three stores increased to seven.
Charlie had strong entrepreneurial desires, so he parted ways with his brother-in-law. He named his first product, a cream cheesecake, after his then eight year old daughter and changed the name of the business to Kitchens of Sara Lee. At this point, the bakery had “fresh” routes throughout the Chicago area.
Charlie was always working on new products to market. Since he was a man who took great pride in the quality and taste of his products, it wasn’t until 1951 that the soon-to-be famous All Butter Pound Cake was introduced.
A buyer from Texas, on a visit to Chicago, was so impressed with the Sara Lee products that he asked Charlie to ship them to him in Texas. Lubin knew he couldn’t ship fresh product that far and his fresh product didn’t freeze well.
Charlie perfected a reformulated frozen line of products, which met his extremely high standards for taste and quality. By 1953, Sara Lee led the food industry by developing a process for freezing baked goods that retained product quality while offering mass distribution capabilities. This same year, he designed foil baking pans. Using this type of packaging to bake, freeze, and distribute the product to consumers in the same pan, both reduced production costs and costs to the customers. This was a revolution in the food industry. The concept of being able to do all of this in one pan was one of our earliest “firsts”.
Lubin franchised fresh routes to a 300-mile radius of Chicago. The demand for Sara Lee products was increasing and the ability to ship frozen was about to make its mark. One year later, Kitchens of Sara Lee expanded its delivery to 48 US states.
As the Sara Lee name grew, other corporations were taking interest in frozen products. Kitchens of Sara Lee was becoming so well known that Consolidated Foods Corporation acquired it in 1956 and Charlie continued on as the Chief Executive Officer. This same year, another company, destined to become a major part of Sara Lee, opened its doors. Chef Pierre, Inc., founded by Peter C. Dendrinos in Muskegon, Michigan, was the makers of high-quality frozen pies.
By the late 1950s television had proven to be an effective advertising medium and in 1960 Charlie started using it. As people were made more aware of the high quality that went into the making of Sara Lee products, the business continued to grow.
The demand was so high that the facilities soon became too small. Charlie needed another larger facility. To maintain the highest and most consistent quality, he decided it would require an unprecedented level of automation and sophistication. He found an appropriate site for the facility in Deerfield, Illinois. Ground-breaking for this plant occurred on June 27th, 1962. There were approximately 1,000 civic and business leaders at the ceremony. As construction of the new facility continued, more and more products were being expanded to national distribution.
The Deerfield plant began production in 1964. As imagined in Charlie’s vision, there were extensive research and development labs, a test bakery, complete machine shop, and a beautiful Home Ec kitchen complete with all types of home-cooking and baking equipment to test in-home preparation and cooking times.
On May 12th, 1965, Factory Magazine (a McGraw-Hill publication) named the Sara Lee Deerfield facility one of the ten top new manufacturing plants in the United States. The Deerfield facility was the largest and most modern bakery in the world.
That year, Sara Lee decided to expand further. That decision led to the development of the Food Service Division, initially targeted to service airlines, larger restaurants, and institutions, such as hospitals and colleges. On August 15, 1965, after a long career filled with innovation and many successes, Charlie Lubin retired.
Television advertising was still doing well, but Sara Lee thought it needed something more. In 1968, Mitch Lee, creator of the Broadway musical, “Man of La Mancha” wrote the jingle “Nobody Doesn’t Like Sara Lee.” It was the core of all our new ads, even appearing on all Sara Lee owned trucks.
Sara Lee presented a cake to the City of Chicago to commemorate the 100th birthday of the Chicago Public Library. The cake was in the form of an enormous book with the Chicago Public Library emblem on the cover.
On July 4th, 1976, Sara Lee presented the United States with its bicentennial birthday cake. The cake was approximately four stories tall and filled Freedom Hall in Philadelphia.
Chef Pierre, Inc. was acquired by Consolidated Foods Corporation in 1978.
In July of 1983, Sara Lee displayed a “dummy” cake for the 50th anniversary of the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.
In 1985, Consolidated Foods Corporation was renamed Sara Lee Corporation. In conjunction with this, Kitchens of Sara Lee was renamed Sara Lee Bakery.
Chef Pierre and Sara Lee merged together in 1988, combining Sara Lee’s technological leadership in laminated doughs with Chef Pierre’s expertise in fruit-based technologies.
A line of Sara Lee fresh-delivered products was introduced in 1993, first to the California markets. These baked good items can now be found in about one-third of the country. It is from these locations, scattered across the world, that our company continues to grow, prosper and carry on the high ideals set forth by Charles Lubin. Ideals that require us to rise above all others to produce the highest-quality product possible.
The company began executing a bold and ambitious multi-year plan to transform Sara Lee into a company organized around its customers, consumers and geographies to better serve the ever-changing global marketplace.
Sara Lee opened The Kitchens of Sara Lee, a 120,000-square-foot innovation campus in Downers Grove, Illinois, that serves as North America’s research and development center of excellence. It houses more than 100 research and development professionals, including chefs, scientists, engineers and packaging designers. This marks the first time the company has had all of its North American food and beverage research and development capabilities under one roof. The new innovation campus was named “The Kitchens of Sara Lee” in honor of the company originally founded by Charles Lubin in 1949.
Source: Sara Lee Desserts