<< More customer stories
  • Tweet this Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on Google+ Email

Explore how other customers are generating value with SAP technology.

More customer stories ›

Customer Snapshot

Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner – Serving Up Innovation

New company,


of years of family-favorite food brands


The Hillshire Brands Company has a very specific recipe for success: combine a talent for producing convenient meals and snacks with a passion for innovating new products. This formula is delivering delicious foods for your family to enjoy at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For Hillshire Brands, the right recipe for innovation in its supply chain is the SAP® SNC Supplier Collaboration rapid-deployment solution.


The Hillshire Brands Company


Chicago, Illinois, USA


$US4 billion

Number of Employees


Implementation Partners

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Line of Business

Supply Chain


Consumer Products

Featured Products

SAP Supply Network Collaboration rapid-deployment solution for customer collaboration



  • 1939Nathan Cummings' purchased the C.D. Kenny Company, a small wholesale distributor of sugar, coffee and tea in Baltimore.
  • 1942The corporation moved its headquarters to Chicago and became Sprague Warner-Kenny Corporation.
  • 1954 Stockholders voted to change the corporation’s name to Consolidated Foods Corporation.
  • 1956The company acquired Kitchens of Sara Lee along with 34 Piggly Wiggly supermarkets.
  • 1967Sales topped $1US billion.
  • 1968 Growth continues by acquiring Bryan Foods, Inc., Electrolux, Gant, Country Set and Canadelle, Hillshire Farm, Rudy’s Farm and Erdal, Hanes, Superior Tea and Coffee Company and Gallo Salame, Jimmy Dean Meats, and Nicholas Kiwi Limited.
  • 1985The corporation changed its name to Sara Lee Corporation.
  • 1999Bil Mar Foods, Champion Products, Van Nelle, and Hygrade Food Products (including Ball Park Franks), Playtex Apparel, Inc., Wechsler Coffee, Chock Full o’ Nuts and Continental Coffeee were acquired.
  • 2000The corporation divested PYA/Monarch, Champion Europe, Coach, the International Fabrics division of Courtaulds and its international bakery businesses in France, India, China and the U.K.
  • 2001Hills Bros., MJB and Chase & Sanborn, Café Pilão, and The Earthgrains Company were acquired.
  • 2002The Senseo coffeemaker and the Cafitesse line of liquid coffee systems were debuted.
  • 2006Hanes Brands Inc. was formed.
  • 2009The company opened its new North American Research and Development Center of Excellence, acquired Café Damasco, and divested its International Household and Body Care businesses.
  • 2011Sara Lee Corporation announced its intention to split into two independent pure-play, publicly traded companies. The company also names Marcel Smits as CEO.
  • 2012The company announced that its International Coffee and Tea business will be named D.E MASTER BLENDERS 1753, and the North American Retail and Foodservice business will be named Hillshire Brands Company. It begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker HSH.

Business Model

Iconic brand giant

The Hillshire Brands Company is justifiably famous for traditional sausages and such iconic brands as Jimmy Dean, Ball Park, and Hillshire Farms. But the company is constantly striving to bring tasty new products to hungry consumers as well. For the last year or so, Hillshire Brands has been laser focused on delivering new products to market that the company’s Chief Executive Officer Sean Connolly describes as:


Contemporary, Relevant, and Provocative

The Challenge

Become the most innovative branded food company in the USA

Bringing new products to market takes fresh thinking in both a company’s product development and its business operations. At Hillshire Brands, this includes improving collaboration with the suppliers that provide the ingredients and packaging needed to produce their products.


An optimized supply chain would:

  • Support product innovation with the ability to launch new offerings quickly
  • Improve supply network collaboration and visibility
  • Reduce operational costs

Enter SAP

Old heritage, new company

Hillshire Brands’ heritage of making delicious smoked sausages dates back some 80 years, but the current Hillshire Brands is actually quite new. In 2012, while still known as Sara Lee Corporation, it completed the spin-off of its international coffee and tea business.


The SAP® Supply Network Collaboration application (SAP SNC) was already part of Sara Lee’s software landscape. Now with a new organization and an updated corporate vision, company leaders saw a rapid-deployment solution (RDS) – with its packaged services and best practices approach – as the best way to quickly optimize the SNC environment and gain full value.

The SAP Experience

Providing change, and change management

As part of the RDS support, SAP provided both a project manager and an organizational change manager. These onsite SAP consultants walked Hillshire Brands through the tool’s design and guided them along with the implementation.


The Hillshire Brands team supported the rollout by focusing on training personnel from the company’s 13 manufacturing plants and dozens of key suppliers. A three-day employee training session covered each of the three functional areas to be supported: purchase orders, scheduling agreement release processes, and supplier-managed inventory (SMI).

Better Business

Savoring the effects

About 50 suppliers are currently onboard with the revitalized SNC system, and Hillshire Brands is savoring the advantages of real-time and automated collaboration.


Since the rollout, vendors have 24x7 access to demand and forecast information, which lets them plan proactively and respond faster to production changes.

Hillshire Brands sales and marketing organizations can also work more effectively with both plant managers and suppliers to ensure that everything is in place to support an upcoming promotion or product launch.


Real-time automation changes everything

Hillshire Brands sales and marketing organizations can work more effectively with both plant managers and suppliers to ensure that everything is in place to support an upcoming promotion or product launch.


Realized immediate benefits include:

  • Real-time and automated collaboration with vendors
  •  Higher shipping accuracy
  •  Greater efficiency in procurement transactions
  •  Ongoing savings and less revenue loss

Run Simple

Instant and enduring savings

As a result of reduced days in inventory alone, Hillshire Brands has forecasted a one-time savings of US$1.5 million. Add this to an expected ongoing annual savings of approximately half a million dollars in direct materials expenses, reduced inventory obsolescence, and avoidance of revenue loss due to stock-outs.

Journey Ahead

Sharing the responsibility to yield innovative futures

According to the Hillshire Brands Procurement Team, the company’s focus is now on ramping up their SMI processes over the next two years. They see sharing the responsibility for managing materials with suppliers as critical to reducing the company’s overall inventory. The procurement team notes that Hillshire Brands plans to have suppliers themselves manage up to 80% of the inventory in some areas.


Innovation runs strong at Hillshire Brands. So for consumers, the company’s leaner and more efficient supply chain means we should look for even more new products on the shelves of our neighborhood grocery stores.


Hillshire Brands has already brought us pancakes and sausage on a stick. What’s next?

Related Links