How Sara Lee’s Ball Park Brand Became the Top Dog

For years, Ball Park was the No. 2 player in hot dogs. That is, until parent company Sara Lee—maker of Hillshire Farm meats and Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches—turned to insights, backed by innovation, to take share from and ultimately usurp the lead spot from Kraft competitor Oscar Mayer. (Per IRI, Ball Park is now the beef hot dog sales leader, based on data for the 52 weeks ending March 7.) The brand’s ascension was informed by research which showed that moms were the primary buyers of the product, but that teenage boys, too, enjoyed eating it. Such a consumer-centric approach has helped Sara Lee drive growth, said CMO Philippe Schaillee. Schaillee spoke to Brandweek about why Big Food is likely to roll out major new innovations later this year and how social media helped Sara Lee’s deli business gain prominence with moms. Excerpts from the interview appear below.