RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

Sara Lee / Hillshire Brands
"The Kitchens of Sara Lee"
Downers Grove, IL

Occupying 120,000 SF of Sara Lee's campus in suburban Chicago, The Kitchens of Sara Lee was designed by Hixson to foster innovation by providing a collaborative, creative environment for 100+ Sara Lee chefs, scientists, engineers, and others representing 20 different user groups and diverse food product lines (e.g., baked goods, coffee, meat products). Features such as packaging labs with rapid prototyping capabilities, meat labs that could simulate plant processes to test product components before entering full-scale production, and a pilot plant with capabilities such as a three-zone oven provided agility, enabling product teams to fail fast and succeed quickly in food-safe environments.

The consolidation of all businesses into one location facilitated the generation of ideas for multiple product categories as well as category-specific products and allowed Sara Lee to work side-by-side with customers. In addition, equipment in the center's kitchens featured plug-and-play equipment that could be custom arranged to replicate a quick service restaurant or a foodservice operation: a more practical, scalable solution than a fixed installation.