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Sara Lee Rolls Out Bread That's a White/Whole Grain Blend

CHICAGO -- In the same month that Interstate Bakeries Corp.'s Wonder brand has launched its White Bread Fans 100% Whole Grain bread, Sara Lee, based here, yesterday introduced nationwide a similar concept: Soft & Smooth Made With Whole Grain White Bread -- a product that the company describes as looking, smelling, and feeling like white bread, but providing a "good source of whole grains." The idea behind both new breads is to allow consumers who love white bread, particularly kids, to receive the health benefits of whole grains.

Sara Lee is touting Soft & Smooth "as a first of its kind -- a bread made with a blend of enriched flour and whole grain flour that gives tried-and-true white-bread lovers the taste, texture and appearance of white bread, but delivers whole grain nutrition," including eight grams of whole grains per two-slice serving; three grams of fiber per serving, the same amount as 100% whole wheat bread; vitamin D and vitamin B folic acid; and calcium -- all without trans fats or artificial colors or flavors.

In developing Soft & Smooth, Sara Lee conducted many taste-test panels to evaluate different recipes, deciding on a flour blend that uses about 70 percent enriched flour and 30 percent whole grain flour. In contrast, Wonder's White Bread Fans is a 100 percent whole grain product.

"Health experts are calling for more whole grain consumption, but we know more Americans eat white bread than any other kind of packaged bread and won't sacrifice that taste and texture," said Bill Nictakis, president, Sara Lee Food & Beverage's U.S. Fresh Bakery unit, in a statement. "Using a flour blend to ensure the taste and appearance of white bread is the best way to reach a large cross-section of white-bread consumers and really drive whole-grain consumption. Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Made with Whole Grain White Bread delivers on this delicate proposition: whole grain benefits, white bread taste. That's why we say the future of whole grains for many Americans is white bread."

"With the USDA's recent recommendation for Americans to make half their grains whole, many consumers are searching for a way to do just that, but without sacrificing great taste," noted Frances Coletta, director of product nutrition for Sara Lee Food & Beverage. "Consumers are used to thinking about transitional products in the dairy aisle -- moving from whole milk to 2 percent milk to skim milk. Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Made with Whole Grain White Bread can help many consumers make the transition to whole grains without shocking their taste expectations."

The company will support the launch of the product through national television and print advertising, the largest coupon distribution ever behind a bread introduction, and extensive sampling programs at 250 minor-league baseball games into the autumn. The launch support is part of a $30 million marketing campaign for Sara Lee brand fresh products this year. Today Sara Lee will hold a taste test event at the Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier, where children can sample bread Soft & Smooth in peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches.

Suggested retail price for the 20-ounce loaf starts at $1.99, with the price depending on the region of the country.

Sara Lee, the No. 1 bakery brand in the combined breads, buns and bagels segment, first introduced Sara Lee-branded bread in October 2002, and the company has brought out nine whole-grain and whole-wheat breads in the past three years.
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