Tyson Foods, Inc., Springdale, Ark., commenced the sale of Sara Lee Frozen Bakery to private equity firm Kohlberg & Co., Mount Kisco, N.Y., as previously announced in June. The new Sara Lee Frozen Bakery will focus on its Sara Lee, Van’s, Chef Pierre and Bistro Collection brands in the premium dessert foodservice market.

Sara Lee Frozen Bakery will establish its headquarters in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., and continue operations at two manufacturing facilities in Traverse City, Mich., and Tarboro, N.C. The new management team, led by Craig Bahner, chief executive officer; Don Davis, president and head of sales; and Jeff Gronbeck, chief financial officer, will be recruiting 60-80 new senior-level professionals in sales and marketing, research and development, finance, human resources and supply chain. The new company will employ approximately 1,300 people at the headquarters and plant locations.

“Tyson Foods did a great job with this portfolio of businesses, but their primary focus was on protein. Moving the frozen bakery products into a standalone company concentrated in the frozen bakery business will enable us to continue delivering quality products while accelerating growth, increasing innovation and achieving operational excellence,” says Bahner. 

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to breathe new life into this outstanding portfolio of brands,” says CJ Fraleigh, chairman of Sara Lee Frozen Bakery. “We have assembled an exceptional management team, and our partners at Kohlberg have a long track record of success in carve outs and reemerging businesses. Together, we will accelerate Sara Lee Frozen Bakery’s growth.”

Sara Lee Frozen Bakery will also invest in its research and development efforts, and soon begin building a new R&D facility and test kitchen, including a pilot plant. This facility will be co-located with the corporate headquarters to facilitate collaboration and accelerate innovation.

“We are very excited to create a great growth-oriented company that allows our employees’ careers and families to thrive with a culture that respects and values all,” adds Bahner.