Sara Lee hawking crustless bread for kids

Sunday, May 19, 2002

CHICAGO -- Look ma, no crusts.

Sara Lee wants to take over a duty moms have carried out for kids for decades -- slicing the crusts off white bread. The consumer goods giant is touting its new IronKids Crustless Bread as a fresh-from-the-oven idea.

The product, introduced earlier this month at the supermarket industry's annual convention in Chicago, will be a bit of an upper-crust loaf. Sara Lee is selling it for about 75 cents more than crusted bread, or $2.59 to $3.39 for a 16-ounce loaf, depending on the market.

In an era when convenience tops U.S. shopping lists, Sara Lee figures enough consumers will turn over the extra dough. It's spending nearly $10 million to roll it out, making it the bakery group's biggest product launch yet.

"Consumers told us they'd be willing to pay a premium for this product," said Matt Hall of the St. Louis-based Sara Lee Bakery Group. "Twenty years ago, they probably wouldn't have paid for it."

Fast-growing market

A similar product that Sara Lee introduced in Spain in 1999 has generated stellar sales.

The fastest-growing area of the $5.6 billion bread industry is the super-premium segment, encompassing everything from French-style to roasted garlic to rosemary and olive oil bread.

Sara Lee acquired IronKids -- a leading brand of white bread that advertises itself as having the fiber of whole-wheat bread -- when it bought Earthgrains last year. The deal made the company the nation's second-biggest fresh bread maker.

Crustless Bread is made at its bakery in Paris, Texas, where crusts are removed by an automated slicer. The rejected crusts are used for croutons and bread crumbs .

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