* Sara Lee's EarthGrains first brand to use Eco-Grain
* Price same as standard EarthGrains loaf
* Sara Lee hopes to expand use of Eco-Grain wheat
By Brad Dorfman
CHICAGO, Feb 1 A green loaf of bread is usually
something you do not want to find on store shelves, but Sara
Lee Corp SLE.N is hoping using "green" grain will help
attract consumers to its EarthGrains bread.
Sara Lee will announce on Tuesday it will be the first
packaged food company to use Eco-Grain wheat in its baking.
Eco-Grain was developed by Horizon Milling, a joint venture
between agribusiness giant Cargill Inc [CARG.UL] and farmer and
rancher owned CHS Inc (CHSCP.O). It is grown using farming
practices that reduce fertilizer and it requires less land than
The bread will also cost the same $2.49 to $4.09 for a
24-ounce loaf as EarthGrains currently costs. That should
appeal to consumers interested in helping the environment, but
not if it means paying significantly more for organic bread,
said Kyle Marinkovich, marketing manager at Horizon Milling.
"This is an easy way that they can impact the environment,"
Sara Lee is No. 2 in a fragmented U.S. bread industry --
trailing Thomas' English muffin maker George Weston Ltd (WN.TO)
-- with 5.8 percent of the market, according to Euromonitor
International. Sara Lee's North American fresh bakery products
earned $2.2 billion in revenue in fiscal 2009.
Private label manufacturers increased their market share
during the recession. With the myriad private-label bakers now
making up 17.3 percent of the market, branded players such as
Sara Lee need to work even harder to attract customers.
"That seems to be one of the categories where (consumers)
don't perceive significant difference between private label and
branded offering," Morningtar Erin Swanson said of the bread
Eco-Grain wheat is grown on a handful of family farms and
Horizon hopes that production will increase "exponentially" as
demand for the grain increases, Marinkovich said.
To start, 20 percent of the wheat used in EarthGrains
wide-pan bread will be Eco-Grain wheat, with the company
looking to use more Eco-Grain wheat in the bread going forward.
Sara Lee also plans to use Eco-Grain wheat in its EarthGrains
thin buns -- a sort of flat sandwich bun -- later this year.
Sara Lee is trying to tap into consumers concerned about
the environment by launching a marketing campaign for the
Eco-Grain bread with the slogan "plot to save the Earth, one
field at a time."
"We think about this as a movement, think about this as a
first step and something we want to build upon," said Tim
Zimmer, vice president for Sara lee's North American fresh
(Reporting by Brad Dorfman; editing by Michele Gershberg and