Hillshire Brands Sees Meat Snacks as 'Emerging Market'

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Hillshire Brands Sees Meat Snacks as 'Emerging Market'


DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. -- Slim Jim may have another competitor on its hands. Less than one week after Hillshire Brands Co. completed its spinoff from Sara Lee Corp., the company's new CEO said he is setting his sights on meat snacks.

Hillshire Brands CEO Sean Connolly is reportedly excited about flavored sausages and snacks made with meat as he looks to add "provocative" new items to his company's lineup of cold cuts and hot dogs, according to Reuters. Connolly said he views new meat products as a key driver for sales and profits, as they would bring Hillshire outside of grocery stores and into other retail outlets.

"We view that as an emerging market," Connolly said of the meat snacks segment. "There is a compelling consumer need around getting protein into the snacking occasion, as opposed to some of the hollow calories that they rely on today."

Connolly declined to speak about specific new products, but did say he is open to products that require cooking, like the new Ball Park slider hamburgers, as well as foods that can be eaten straight from the package, the news agency reported.

"There hasn't been a lot of creative thought put into that space over the years," he noted.

Among Hillshire's portfolio of brands, Jimmy Dean has seen consistent support and innovation, Connolly said, while others have not. One brand that is lacking is the company's namesake Hillshire Farms, whose smoked sausage is Connolly's favorite company product, according to Reuters.

"I'd like to see us make that line more contemporary. We have some ideas up our sleeve to do just that," he said, citing flavor varieties as an example. "You should expect us to shake it up. We're going to bring some provocative news to our categories."

Connolly was named CEO of the company in January, before the split and when the company was simply referred to as Sara Lee's new MeatCo North American meats business. He joined the company from Campbell Soup Co., where he served as president of Campbell North America, as CSNews Online previously reported.

Hillshire Brands Co. officially became an independent company on June 28. Takeover speculation has already begun, despite just a few days of trading. According to Reuters, analysts have mentioned Tyson Foods Inc., Hormel Foods Corp., Smithfield Foods Inc. and JBS as possible suitors. Connolly declined to comment on the takeover speculation.