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Hillshire Brands Co. (NYSE:HSH)

February 20, 2013 1:45 pm ET

Executives

Sean M. Connolly - Chief Executive Officer, Director, Member of Executive Committee and Chief Executive Officer of North American Retail & Food Service Business

Maria Henry - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

Melissa Napier - Senior Vice President of Investor Relations

Analysts

Robert Moskow - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

Alexia Howard - Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC., Research Division

Jason English - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Robert Moskow - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

Okay. If we could get seated, we're about ready for our next presenter. Thank you.

My name is Robert Moskow. I'm with Crédit Suisse. And on behalf of the CAGNY board, I want to thank Hillshire Brands for presenting at CAGNY this year, and especially, I want to thank them for sponsoring breakfast on Friday. If you want to see how many Jimmy Dean -- thank you. You should come just to see how many Jimmy Dean sandwiches I can eat at once. The answer is more than one.

Here on stage with us today is CEO, Sean Connolly; CFO, Maria Henry; and Treasurer and Senior VP of Investor Relations, Melissa Napier. Hillshire is a $4 billion company that is the renamed continuing company from the old Sara Lee business, which split up last year. It's a focused meat-centric company, with 2 big brands and significant scale in the packaged meats category.

Sean Connolly has been with Hillshire for almost a year, and his team -- he and his team have developed a 3-year plan to turn this into a growth company. This includes upgrading management capabilities, improving product quality and investing in brand support to become the leader in meat-centric innovation. I've yet to see any specific plans for new and better beef jerky, but there's always hope. And without further ado, here's Sean Connolly.

Sean M. Connolly

Rob, thank you. Well, good afternoon, everybody. It's good to see everybody here in the room. And for those of you who are joining us by webinar, thanks for tuning in. We really do appreciate everybody's interest in Hillshire Brands. I know Maria and I have really been looking forward to getting back together with you and talking more about our strategies and the progress we're making in our effort to create real shareholder value for you.

Before I forget, as you're walking in the door, you may -- hopefully, you received one of these nifty little business card holders. It's quite authentic-looking, quite Hillshire-looking. It's got a logo on it, and inside of that is a gift card so you can buy some of our products. I thought that would be a more practical solution than giving you frozen and refrigerated foods to schlep around in Boca Raton. So please make sure you get that so you can try our great products when you get home.

All right. Let's go into the customary slide on forward-looking statements. Please take a look. All right, let's get into it. Here's what we want you to take away from our presentation on Hillshire today. Hillshire is a terrific portfolio of leading iconic brands, and it is demonstrating right now in the marketplace that it is responsive to investment. We have a growth agenda, and we have a cost savings agenda. And we are making meaningful progress against both of those agendas, and ultimately, what matters most is we are very confident that we can continue to drive significant shareholder value with this company.

Now I've been with the company -- Rob, it's a little more than a year now. I've been with the company about 13 months, and it has been an amazing year. We had a lot of heavy lifting to do this year, and I'm really amazed by the sheer amount of progress we have made in terms of implementing real change to the business. If you think about it, we essentially launched an entirely new company this year, with an entirely new view on how to create value with the assets that we own.

We also built almost an entirely new management team, where just about every person on my team was handpicked for their role because of the skills that they bring to the party. I was looking for terrific operators, number one; and I was looking for people who are intensely competitive and love to win, number two, and I think I got both. And importantly, they're bringing a fresh new perspective to the business. They clearly have fresh eyes, and I hear new ideas around how we can create value from them every single day.

And then just before the holidays, at the end of the calendar year, we made an important move, and that was the move of our headquarters into the City of Chicago. And the reason it was an important move is because we now have our people working in an environment that embodies the way we act and the way we think, which is lean, hungry and interactive. And when you put it all together, it really translates to a market difference in our corporate culture. In a word, it is energized. So it's been an amazing year.

But what really matters is this: the past 12 months, we believe, had validated our core investment thesis. We clearly compete in attractive and profitable categories. And as you're seeing in the marketplace, the key to success with these categories is investment, disciplined investment, and brand-building and innovation, margin-accretive innovation. But we've got to pay for those demand generators, and we will because we have clear opportunities to drive continued cost efficiency. And that will fund our growth. Put it all together, we are very confident that we can generate significant shareholder value with this portfolio.

Now it is early days, but when you look at the data in the marketplace, what you see is that our turnaround efforts are beginning to take hold. What you see here on the slide behind me, on the left, are our product categories. The next column over is our volume percent change versus the prior year, in our fiscal '12, which was our last fiscal year. And on the right, you see our fiscal year-to-date, which we're about halfway through the year. And a couple things you'll notice, we were shrinking, and now we're growing. Last year, we were declining, and the business had been neglected and it really started to show in our performance in the marketplace. We've taken corrective actions, and the business is getting back on track. It's clearly early days, but obviously, I'm encouraged by the progress we are seeing with the business.

So here's what we will cover today. The first thing I want to do, especially for those of you who may be new to our story, is just give you a little bit of background on Hillshire Brands, some facts about the business, as well as the categories that we compete in. Then, we'll spend the bulk of our time today reviewing our 4 key strategies to drive shareholder value and update you on the progress we're making against each of these strategies. And then, clearly, we'll close out with a view on how we think about driving continued cost efficiency and how we ultimately create value for our shareholders with our financial outlook. So that's what we're going to cover today.

Let me give you some facts on the business. As Rob said, we are a $4 billion North American meat-centric food company, and the pie chart on the left shows that we have 2 operating segments. We have the retail traditional grocery operating segment, which is about 3/4 of our revenue base; and then, we've got the Foodservice operating segment, that's about 1/4 of the revenue base. On the right, you see each of those 2 segments in terms of what they contain, and what you see is that the retail segment in the bar on the left is almost exclusively a meat-centric company, whereas the Foodservice segment is about 2/3 meat and 1/3 bakery.

Now sometimes investors ask me, "Is that bakery business strategic to Hillshire?" And my answer to that remains the same. It's strategic to our Foodservice division because, in Foodservice, we have a phenomenal pie business called Chef Pierre that's north of 50% market share, and it is a cherished product by our operators. So when we go to market with meat, having that bakery business along in our arsenal is actually a strategic advantage for us, so it is an important piece of our business in that regard.

88% of our revenue base is branded, and it's anchored by 2 $1 billion brands that we will talk about today, Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farm, as well as a complement of other terrific brands in the portfolio. I'll get into several of these because they will be key to driving our growth agenda. Our market share on these categories with these brands is extremely strong. So take a look, Jimmy Dean, #1 in breakfast sausage, #1 in frozen protein breakfast; Hillshire Farm, #1 in smoked dinner sausage; Ball Park, the #1 hotdog in America; State Fair, the #1 corn dog in America; and Aidells, the #1 super premium sausage in America.

And then in lunchmeat, which we'll talk a lot about today, which is a huge category, we have 2 terrific brand equities with Hillshire Farm and with Gallo, our West Coast business, where we are -- we have meaningful room for growth. All in all, when you look at our relative market shares, this is a very strong portfolio. And now that we're back to giving the brand some attention, we think we can grow these meaningfully.

Now as we think about growth, we've seen multiple areas that we can grow, that we can grow the business. So let me break this slide down for you. Across the top, you've got some of our big brands: Hillshire, Ball Park, the second Hillshire is smoked sausage, Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage and Jimmy Dean frozen protein breakfast. The green bars represent the category household penetration for these categories, and the orange bar represents our brands' household penetration. And then, down at the bottom, you see the size of the categories.

There are a couple of things I want you to take away from this slide. The first is that we compete in large categories. But the second is that there are a number of ways we can drive growth into these categories. In categories that are fully developed, like lunchmeat or hotdogs, where we're already in 8 out of 10 households, you could see our penetration is closer to 30%. So as we drive brand relevancy and we innovate, we believe we can grow our share in these categories.

Smoked sausage is an interesting category. It's been around forever. Everybody knows that it's an incredibly convenient product, but household penetration peaked at 60% for the category. We believe we know why. The superheavy users in the smoked sausage category use it once, twice, 3 times a week. They're very traditional. They eat things like Polska kielbasa and sauerkraut. But there are young households that are being formed that frankly didn't grow up on Polska kielbasa and sauerkraut, but they love the convenience of a sausage. I'll talk about what we think we could do there in a few minutes.

Breakfast sausage is a similar category. It peaked down in terms of household penetration at 60%, so 4 out of 10 households don't have it. And when we talk to those households and we ask why, they tell us very clearly 2 things: one, it's not convenient enough to make a raw sausage from scratch; and two, it's not healthy enough. I'd like a Better-For-You choice. So what you'll see later in the presentation is we've got some solutions that we think we can continue to drive household penetration in these categories.

And then on the far right, frozen protein breakfast. It's really the youngest category we compete in, in terms of its development. It's only at 36% household penetration, and it's growing the fastest of any category in our portfolio. In fact, it might be one of the fastest-growing categories in the grocery store. The reason it's growing rapidly is because consumers are really beginning to understand the value of getting protein in the breakfast daypart.

They get most of their protein today at dinner, and they're recognizing they can get a convenient, great-tasting and ultimately good-for-you food in the breakfast daypart. Jimmy Dean has clearly been the market leader here. As you could see, we've got essentially 2/3 of the penetration in the category, and we will continue to lead the category to new heights. The net of all of this is we see multiple ways we can grow the business.

Now this is an important one. The categories we compete in have limited private label penetration. Down at the bottom of this slide, you can see that the average for food and beverage is 18%. So private label is developed up to 18% in the average food and beverage category. In our categories, if you look at each of them, it's basically mid-single digits. The only exception to that is mainstream lunchmeat, and I think the reason for that is because the branded players in mainstream lunchmeat, until recently, including us, we weren't doing enough to innovate the category. Well, clearly, that's changing now.

But the important thing here is that private label development in our categories is very low. Now when people ask me, "Why do you think that's the case?" what I always say is, I'll give you my opinion on this. My opinion is that when you're looking for a food where meat is the hero ingredient in the food, you want to know that the meat comes from a trusted source. You want to know that it's not mystery meat. And that's where our brands come in, and that's why, I believe, you see this development.

So here's our true north vision. Our vision is to become the most innovative meat-centric food company in the U.S. Every day, we challenge our actions through this filter. And the reason we do is because the U.S. consumer is dynamic, they're ever-changing. And if you don't evolve with them, you will get stale and you'll atrophy and eventually, you'll shrink. We've done that before.

So our mantra is "What's next?" We're never satisfied, and when we come out with a new innovation, we have to ask what's next. In the past, we didn't always do that. We were one of the biggest innovators in the late '90s in lunchmeat. And then we took the next few years off and competition caught up with us and ultimately, had very similar products. We lost our point of differentiation. We lost margin. So we always have to be asking what's next, and that's why we have to continue to strive to be the most innovative meat-centric food company in the U.S.

Now 4 strategies will drive our long-term value creation. You see them here on the screen. The first is strengthen our core business. We have a phenomenal core business with great brands, but those brands have been neglected. They need to be strengthened, and that's what we're doing. The second is to extend these great trademarks into logical adjacencies where they make sense, with new product innovations that better meet consumers' needs. The third is to pay for those demand drivers by continuously finding cost efficiency throughout the P&L. And the fourth is to look for on-trend acquisitions that complement our business.

So in today's presentation

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create value. And that's a very disciplined approach about leveraging our equities within new categories. Because of where we started, as Hillshire, and because our core business needed some attention, the way you should think about it is, in the near term, the bulk of our improvement will come from strengthening the core, as we continued to do the adjacencies in a very disciplined way.

Now I showed you a number of brands in our portfolio a few minutes ago, but we're focused on 6 brands to disproportionately drive our growth. You see them on the slide here. Four of them you could call mainstream brands: brands like Jimmy Dean, which is a $1 billion franchise, started as a raw sausage business and has clearly evolved to be bigger than that; brands like Hillshire Farm, the market leader in dinner smoked sausage that has also evolved beyond where it started over the last 10 years; Ball Park has always been known as the hotdog that plumps when you cook it. And as you'll see, we are broadening Ball Park to be something bigger than that. It's about $0.5 billion business, a little less than that; and State Fair, north of $200 million of sales, has lived its whole life as a corn dog, and it's dying to be something more. And we think we can give it a little boost.

We've got 2 artisanal brands: Aidells, which is all about incredible ingredients, all-natural profile and unique flavor combinations; and Gallo, which is our West Coast business is a dry meat business, think salami, terrific business, and frankly, where it's in distribution, it's one of the single highest velocity items we have in our portfolio. We think we have real opportunity there because it's very on trend.

But what I'd ask you to do is counter up [ph] above all these brands and look at the portfolio in total for a second because I think you'll see what differentiates us from some brands, some companies. You could consider us to be a house of brands as opposed to a branded house, and what I mean by that is we don't have one brand equity that we want to be all things to all people. We have a number of brand equities that resonate credibly with very diverse target audiences where they play.

So as an example, an extreme example, the State Fair consumer might be a single mom who's living in Mobile, Alabama, who's buying State Fair on food stamps at the first of the month. That's a real situation. Contrast that with the consumer of Aidells, who might be a dual income, no-kid family. They're older. They live in the Upper East side of New York. They're looking for unique flavor combinations, and they're looking for more of an organic natural profile. Two extremely different consumer segments and 2 very different brand equities. But both of those brand equities are connecting emotionally with real resonance with their targets. That's what we think makes our portfolio special, and we'll continue to look to do more of that.

Now growth doesn't happen by accident. To drive growth, you have to drive demand, and to drive demand, you have to have demand drivers. Ours are brand-building and innovation. So when we talk about brand-building and innovation, here's what we're talking about. On the brand-building side, this is just core fundamental good marketing work that makes your brands continuously stronger. It starts with positioning, and positioning means that we have to make the promise of that brand to that very distinct consumer segment really resonate. We have to satisfy an unmet need in their life, and we've made real progress in that area.

When it comes to advertising, we don't create advertising because we want to be entertained. We want advertising that works. We want advertising that has impact that drives demand. That's our goal, and that's what we're doing. And ultimately, you've got to make it work in the store, so we're very active in category management, which means we partner with our customers. We help them understand how they make money on their asset, the shelf, the refrigerator, their frozen section, because they have a ton of capital there, and they, too, have goals to get a return on that capital. So we help them understand optimal assortment, what new innovations come in, should it be at eye level, should it be at the bottom, what really motivates the shopper, what can keep loyalty to their store. And that category management work helps build a bond of trust between us and the retailer, and I'd like to say that helps us win some of the ties.

On innovation, there are 3 things we talk about, and I would assert to you that all 3 are important. It's easy to talk about breakthrough disruptive innovation and fewer, bigger, better. But innovation for us means start with upgrading the product quality of the SKUs we have in the marketplace. And in our case, sometimes, that quality had gone backwards in the past 10 years. Upgrade the packaging, so it looks contemporary because, more than ever, packaging is critically important to our consumers.

Add line extensions. Don't be afraid of them because what line extensions do, they bring new news to the category, and that leaves the consumer thinking your category is relevant and vital and fresh and contemporary and not stale. That's the role that line extensions play in innovation. And then on top of all of that, clearly, look for more disruptive innovations that are a bigger departure that take these tremendous equities into adjacencies in a margin-accretive way and help drive value. All 3 of those matter when it comes to innovation, and brand-building and innovation matters when it comes to growing.

Now there are a couple of key metrics that we look at regularly to track our progress against brand-building and innovation, one is the level of our MAP spend, so think of this as consumer marketing. Historically, our spend was -- annually was 3.5% of revenue, and that's too low. And we've committed to get that number to 5% by fiscal '15. I'd like to tell you we're making good progress and we are. We're at 4.3% currently, and we'll continue to drive that number up. It will flex quarter-to-quarter sensibly based on what's in the marketplace, what our launch windows are, seasonality, et cetera. But the point is we were at 3.5% slightly below, we're going to get to 5%. And we're going to do it in a disciplined way, and we're on track.

We're also building a culture of innovation. And the metric we look at here is the percent of annual revenue that comes from innovations launched in the prior 3 years. We averaged 9% over the last 4-plus years. We need to get that number to between 13% and 15% so we're competitive with other food companies that are top tier. We've made progress already. We're at 11% today, and that will continue to go up. But that's what we've got to do. We've got to get it to 13% to 15%, and the way we're going to do that is instead of focusing on single ideas, one-off ideas, we've got to focus on platforms, technology platforms, consumer platforms, bigger platform ideas. We also have to get our ideas to market faster.

We're beginning to do that now. I'll give you an example in a couple of minutes. But at the end of the day, we've got to improve our in-market success by focusing on consumer insights that matter. Anybody can launch a new innovation. We want innovations that work, so we do our homework. We are building a culture of innovation.

Now the way we enable all this, in part, is to make sure we have the right marketing teams in place and the right communication partners when it comes to driving demand. Jimmy Dean has been a tremendous success story for us, and we have left well enough alone there. The team is doing a great job, and we gave them additional firepower this year. It is working even better.

But on Hillshire, Ball Park and State Fair, we made some changes. We've upgraded our marketing leadership on the businesses, and we've added new communication partners. So as an example, Hillshire Farm, terrific new team running the business. We brought in Y&R, a group that I've worked with extensively in my career with deep food experience, and we're already seeing traction. But this is critical. You have to have the right people on the bus, and we've got the right people on the bus.

Now sharpening the brand positioning is really the bedrock to our brand-building effort. Again, we have to get the promise of each and every brand to resonate in a powerful way with that target consumer. They're incredibly diverse consumers, I can't stress that enough. So we've updated the positioning because this is central to making sure that your marketing investments are delivering a good return.

Hillshire Farm has evolved back to its roots, farmhouse quality meats. Jimmy Dean has evolved to hearty comfort food. Ball Park, no longer just the hot dog. When you think of Ball Park, you should think of better guy food for better guy times. State Fair, similarly, no longer just a corn dog. It's smart, sensible family choices. Aidells and Gallo continue where they've been anchored, authentic ingredients, exceptional taste and our artisanal Italian meats. But when you look at these equities through this positioning filter, you understand what we can do with them and the places we can go.

Now I want to show you a couple of our newer ads, just to give you a taste of what we're talking about here. On Hillshire Farm, what you will see is really about product quality and craftsmanship. It's where Hillshire started. We strayed from that. We're getting back to our roots, and we're beginning to see traction in our marketplace.

The Jimmy Dean campaign, featuring the famous sun you've seen here, has been going for years. It's always been effective. And quite frankly, it's more effective than ever, and we measure this. I'll talk about that in just a minute. And by the way, I want to remind you that the breakfast we sponsored on Friday, the sun himself will be here. So make sure to get your picture taken with him so you can show your kids.

But enough of that, let's roll the tape, and you can see what we do.

[Presentation]

Sean M. Connolly

So we love those spots. We think they're great, and they just continue to get better. But at the end of the day, we are not in this to be entertaining. We're in this to have an impact. So as you might imagine, we go to great lengths to measure the advertising we're putting money behind to make sure that it's working.

We look at premarket testing, where we track things like claims purchase intent before you see it and after you see an ad, as well as things like emotive power. You might say, "What's emotive power?" Well, emotive power is actually a pretty good assessment as to whether or not the brand is connecting emotionally with a very specific target audience. It matters when you're pursuing advertising that works.

But importantly, we do a lot of post-event analytics, and that's simple things like looking at change in trajectory of our consumption trends to very rigorous multivariable regression models that ultimately land us -- set an ROI for our work. But ultimately, we're incredibly focused on making our MAP spend more and more effective each and every year.

But even if you have effective MAP spend, it doesn't matter if you don't have great relationships with your customers, and I'm pleased to report that we have strong relationships with our customers and they're getting stronger every day. In fact, I hear from our customers more than I hear from anybody that they can feel the difference at Hillshire. They're thrilled that we've recommitted to these great brands. We're giving them new news. We're focused on helping them drive their profitability as category managers. And ultimately, they see our energy and they see our commitment to innovation, and they're working with us.

And it's translating to additional category captaincies at other big customers. It's translating to increased shelf space with key retailers. And importantly, it's improving our shelf mix, so we've got higher-velocity, higher-margin products going in the right place. In the last year, we've intentionally weeded out some underperformers while giving more facings to our higher-velocity items. Now as you'll see in a minute, we're about to add new items that we believe will be strong performers to the mix as well. So our customer relationships are in a good place and getting better.

So that's a taste of brand-building. That gives you a feel for what we're doing to drive the core underlying strength of these good brands. But the centerpiece of our vision statement is innovation, and we've got a ton going on at innovation. We have got a new Chief Innovation Officer in Sally Grimes. She has a dedicated team. So innovation is something they do 24/7. It's not a side job any longer.

We have a phenomenal innovation center out in the suburbs where our headquarters used to be that's best in class. And now that we're a focused company, we're using it to create great prototypes that's helping us get to market faster. And again, as we think about innovation, all 3 of these things on the screen matter, upgrading our quality and packaging, line extending and moving into adjacencies.

So let me show you what we've been up to because we're making progress against all 3. I've got to start with lunchmeat. We'll talked about lunchmeat. It's a huge category. We have great brands and we've been -- but frankly, we needed to do a lot of work here. Our lunchmeat business had atrophied, and we needed to get it back on the rails.

So we went out, we talked with consumers. And we said, "What do you expect from Hillshire Farm?" They told us they love the brand, but the brand was not living up to its promise. The first thing they said is, "Your packaging is out of date. You haven't changed it in over a decade. Your private label looks the same. Can you give us better packaging?" And when we asked, "What do you want?" they said, "Let us see the quality of the meat. You're known for craftsmanship. You're known for quality, but you have an opaque package, we can't see it."

So this is the new package. I think it's a terrific-looking package. People can see the quality of the meat, and I'll talk about that in just a second. There's a giant transparent window. And for those of you on the back who have a really keen eye, yes, that barn is actually a UPC code. So it's a great-looking package, and this was just first step in getting our lunchmeat business going in the right direction.

Actually it's not the first step. Our lunchmeat business performance has already begun to move in the right direction, and that came from putting the advertising back on the air around October 1 and getting our price points right. So we've seen improvement even before the new stuff that I'm going to show you and these are moving into the marketplace literally in the next few weeks.

But it didn't just -- it wasn't just packaging. The product quality mattered. And quite frankly, the product quality on Hillshire Farm had gone down over the years. So our R&D team went out, and they did this incredible study. It was called the Drivers of Liking Study, and it is exactly what it sounds like. We found out exactly what are the drivers of why a consumer would buy your product, drivers of -- things like taste, things like texture and appearance.

And what we learned is we had significant room for progress. On the taste side, we need better flavor, for example, more roasted turkey flavor. We needed optimized seasoning, and we learned our appearance needed work as well. They wanted a more natural look, and we said, "Well, what's a more natural look?" They said, "We want it to look moist but not wet." We can do that." "And we want a better texture. We wanted it to look a little bit grainier the way turkey looks when you cut it on Thanksgiving." We said we can do that. We have incredible capabilities in lunchmeat, and we weren't fully leveraging them. So we've done that, and the new quality that's going to the marketplace is truly outstanding. And this is shipping right now in the packages that I just showed you.

But another piece of our agenda is to bring new on-trend flavor varieties into the marketplace. Consumers are always changing their flavor preferences. There's always a new flavor of the moment, and you have to get those into your brand because it makes your brand look contemporary, and it's paying attention to what consumers are buying. So we're doing that. I think this is also a terrific-looking product. On the left, you've got Tuscan-style herbed turkey breast. And on the right, we've got the smoky bourbon seasoned ham. Outstanding products, great new bold flavors and very on trend, adds an overall contemporary halo to the Hillshire Farm brand name. So real, meaningful changes on Hillshire Farm lunchmeat, backed by the advertising that I just showed you, which is all about quality and craftsmanship.

But some of you know we have a lunchmeat business that's beyond Hillshire Farm, and that's our Sara Lee lunchmeat business. This is in a different part of the grocery store. It's over in the deli, and in the deli, there are 2 kinds of lunchmeat. There's the bulk lunchmeat you slice behind the glass. That's the product on the right. And then when -- we've all been there. You get to the store. The line at the deli's too long. You can't wait. You grab a pre-sliced version because it's close enough, and you take it and you go. That's the product on the left.

This is a sizable business for us. It's a profitable business for us, but it hadn't been touched in a long, long time, and it was showing up in the business results. They were sinking fast. And I'm pleased to say that just in the last couple of weeks, we have relaunched Sara Lee Premium Meats, which you see here, which has better packaging, better graphics and better quality, and we've got the American Heart Association Heart Check on it because it's got wellness credentials now as well. But as good as these products are in terms of the quality that's in them, interestingly, consumers tell us what they appreciate as well is what's not in them. It's the absence of negatives, no gluten, no MSG, no fillers, no artificial flavors. You get the idea. All of it's important, so we're really pleased with this new Sara Lee Deli line.

But because the deli is so important to our customers and our customers have so much money tied up in the deli section, we're not putting all our eggs in one basket in terms of Sara Lee as our deli brand. Starting later this calendar year, we've got a brand-new business that we are developing and launching into test called Hillshire Black Label. This is a super premium quality product that has -- is based on whole muscle meat, seasoned in its own juices and also the absence of negatives that I talked about in the Sara Lee line. So we think this could be really interesting because this is an exquisite quality product, and we have the capability. There's nothing we can't do in terms of lunchmeat capability, and this is going to push the high end of the segment. So we're eager to see what this looks -- what this does in the marketplace.

Let's talk about Smoked Sausage for a minute. I showed you the household penetration a couple of minutes ago, and the category peaked at 60%. Well, if you're a new household today and you're 28 years old and you bought your first house with your wife, you're not walking around thinking about postakil [ph], bossa and sauerkraut. Trust me. But those people are looking for convenient solutions. They love the way smoked sausage tastes, but they eat different recipes. And the way I talk to my team about it is think of a sausage as a delivery mechanism for flavored protein. We can do anything with the sausage. We can make it poultry based, beef based. We can put inclusions in it, and we can put it in recipes that are modern and contemporary and relevant. So this is a brand-new line that we just started launching about a month ago, Hillshire Farm Angus Beef. Consumers, we know they love Angus from a hot dog experience where we're the pioneers in Angus hot dogs. And it's working really well. But it's just the tip of the iceberg of what we can do as the market leaders in smoked sausage with the Hillshire name and again, the same familiar absence of negatives that I showed you on the lunchmeat examples. We think we are onto something here with smoked sausage in terms of contemporizing it for a whole new generation of consumers.

And Jimmy Dean has been on fire. We doubled down this year behind this business because it had performed. We had clear empirical evidence. It was working, and we felt quite confident we could put more money behind it in terms of MAP and innovation and it's working. And here are some of the new items that are coming into the marketplace. You can see on the right, we've got Southern Style Chicken Biscuits. And if you're wondering where we got that, it's a simple knockoff of what we saw working in QSRs, where the big QSRs introduced southern style chicken to the breakfast daypart and it worked, and we said, "Well, we can do that." So that's coming out.

Our bowl business has been a home run for us. It's gone really well, and we're extending it with something like biscuit and sausage gravy you've got here. And interestingly, within bowls, we have a subline called the Meat Lovers line. And I'm sure several of you in the room love meat. Well, Rob Moskow, you're no longer going to have to eat 2 Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches because now we go -- we've doubled down. I got 2 sausage patties there in our first Meat Lovers Breakfast sandwich line, so that might tide you over in moderation of course. But for meat lovers, that's a great new product. But you get a sense of what we're doing to keep the momentum going on this business.

Let's talk about hot dogs for a minute. I've been outspoken about the need to drive more category vitality in hot dogs through innovation, and quite frankly, I felt that as the leader in hot dogs with Ball Park, we haven't done our fair share to stimulate category growth. Well, we're doing that, and there are 3 things we're doing in the hot dog category that I'm going to talk about today. The first is on our core Ball Park business. And when we talked to our consumers, we validated what we believe: They absolutely love hot dogs. But sometimes, the most obvious solution is common sense. They wanted permission to eat hot dogs more frequently. We said we can do that, and we created the Ball Park Lean line, which we're launching in the third quarter of this year. We've got a beef lean line, and we've got 100% pork lean line, outstanding taste with less fat, giving the consumer what they wanted, which was more permission to eat hot dogs more frequently. More on what else we're doing in hot dogs in just a minute.

State Fair, won't get into this one here, but it's a great business. We hadn't done anything with it ever. We started to line extend in the last 6 months. We'll continue that, and importantly, we've given it a makeover in terms of the package design that you can see here.

And Aidells, this has been a terrific acquisition for us. It's a great business. It started in smoked sausage. It's known for authentic ingredients and unique flavor combinations, and it's growing double digits week in, week out. It's a phenomenal, phenomenal product, and it's got an all-natural sensibility to it. We'll continue to drive this with things like pineapple bacon and this fantastic chicken and apple with Gouda cheese to continue the momentum on the smoked sausage piece of Aidells, which is really where we're anchored, which is the one growing double digits. So that's terrific news.

And then Gallo, which is our West Coast salami business that we're extending and gradually moving eastward. Dry meat is already growing nicely. Within dry meat, we saw a subsegment that has unusually fast growth, which is uncured. We said, "Well, we can do that." Uncured salami is going into marketplace in quarter 4 this year for those consumers who view uncured as permission to enter the salami category. This is another important innovation in getting Gallo to have a bigger footprint across the U.S.

So those are some of the line extensions. Those are some of the quality improves. Those are some of the packaging improves that we've been working on to really strengthen our business, but in addition to that, we continue to see opportunities to move beyond our heritage categories into sensible adjacencies, things like protein breakfast where we already have built quite a presence, meat-centric meal starters, meat-centric entrées, heat-and-eat mini meals and meat-centric snacks. We think there's tremendous opportunity here to move beyond our heritage categories into adjacencies in a disciplined way.

And by the way, we do have a track record of doing this successfully. Jimmy Dean was essentially a raw sausage business for the better part of 30 years. And somewhere around 10 years ago, a wise person said Jimmy Dean's really more than raw sausage. It's about a convenient way to deliver a protein benefit into the morning daypart, and the rest is history. We've built a $1 billion brand thinking that way, and we've built margin-accretive innovations thinking that way. So we've done this.

We will continue to do it. Interestingly, one of the newest adjacencies that's emerging is in that frozen protein breakfast space, and it's a "Better For You" adjacency of frozen protein breakfast. Now we were the pioneers in this space a number of years ago, 3 or 4 years ago with a business called Delights, but we didn't do anything with the Delights. We put it in the marketplace, and we left it alone and it did okay. In the last 6 to 8 months, we got behind Delights with better packaging that you see here, better innovation and significant investments in MAP spend, and the business just took off, and it has not slowed.

And what you see here on the screen is our brand-new lineup of flatbreads that began to ship in about the last week, brand new, it's shipping as we speak, and this is a phenomenal line. Not only is it good. It's also the fastest product that we've ever had from idea to market. We did this in about 3 months. In the old days, this would have taken us 6 to 9 months. So we've really increased our speed to market here. And interestingly, if you look carefully, the product on the left is our first breakfast sandwich with no meat, and somebody might say, "Well, you're a meat company." I'd say, "Well, we're a meat-centric food company." But if I'm building relationship with a household and the husband in that household wants a breakfast sandwich with meat and the wife doesn't, I'm not going to be too proud not to sell her a breakfast sandwich. By the way, it helps my margins when I take that sausage patty off. So that is amazing product, mozzarella, egg white, 160 calories, incredibly delicious, and it really helps us kind of round out that household. All of these products are under 250 calories in our Delights flatbread line. They're shipping. We're going to feed them to you on Friday as part of the breakfast. They're absolutely outstanding.

When we did our Investor Day last June, one of the brand-new products we debuted was our first foray of getting Ball Park beyond refrigerated, beyond hot dots, and it was a char-grilled burger that's frozen and precooked in a stand-up bag, 60 seconds in the microwave, an amazing flame-grilled taste, really, a remarkable product. We put it into test last summer. We learned a lot about what's working. We tweaked the package a bit, made a couple of seams on the package stronger. We improved the graphics on it based on consumer feedback. But importantly, one of the things we learned is that the repeat was excellent, one of the best levels of repeat purchase in our portfolio. It's because it's a great product, tastes great, but it had no support. So we're beginning to scale up our distribution a bit on this business now, and we're beginning to support it with marketing, and it looks promising. Early days, but we're pleased with our first extension of Ball Park into burgers. And by the way, when you think about Ball Park as better guy food, beef and onion, beef and cheese, flame grilled, this is what we're talking about. It's just a sensible place to take Ball Park against that positioning.

Now State Fair, again, it's been a corn dog its whole life. I've said we need to do more to stimulate growth in the hot dog category. I'm interested in the value segment of the hot dog category because there's a lot of volume there, and we have a brand that plays well with an existing consumer base as a quality credential value brand and it's State Fair. So it seemed like a no brainer to sell State Fair into the hot -- core hot dog category, interestingly, targeting, among others, Hispanic households because it's poultry based. It's a great value, and for the first time in our history, a bilingual package. So State Fair is moving beyond corn dogs, low-hanging fruit, moving into the hot dog category. We'll begin rolling this out in the fourth quarter of this year, really pleased to see State Fair starting to make some progress.

And Aidells, this has been a fantastic acquisition for us. It's always been a smoked sausage business, but we are very confident that Aidells can extend beyond smoked sausage. Sticking with the hot dog theme for a second. I've now talked to you about Ball Park, which is kind of the mainstream hot dog. I've talked to you about State Fair, which is more of the value play in hot dog targeting Hispanic consumers. Well, Aidells hot dog is at the other end of the spectrum. It's a super premium hot dog because it's all natural. It's chicken based. And just like our very first SKU of Aidells, which was chicken and apple that had fruit in it, which was a huge success for Aidells, this product also has fruit in it. What you see here is Pineapple Paradise. So this is a really exquisite hot dog that gives permission to the mom who is particularly discerning around the ingredients in a hot dog.

But we don't stop there with Aidell adjacencies. One of the things I talk to my team about in innovation is I said you don't have to invent something entirely new. Look for areas of known demand, and then add a twist. One of the heroes in the food space in the last few years, if not, the single biggest hero, is Chobani. Yogurt is an area of known demand. Greek is known demand with a twist. So that's how we think about innovation. Instead of trying to invent new consumer behaviors, let's look for known demand and let's update them. Well, meatloaf and meatballs have been around forever, but I think the last time they got a twist was about a century ago. So we thought we could do something to these traditional categories of meatloaf and meatballs with the Aidells name that lived up to the Aidells heritage around exquisite flavor. And by the way, these things are precooked, so you can throw it in the microwave. You can throw it on the grill for a minute but amazing flavor adventure. Chipotle barbecue pre-cooked slices of meatloaf, these will blow your mind. And meatballs like habanero with green chile in a chicken baste, I mean this is a phenomenal way to think about our opportunity. It's known demand with a twist, and that's how we go after this.

So I'm going to pause there in the interest of time. I've given you a taste of what we're doing on innovation, quite a taste in terms quality improvements, packaging improvements, line extensions and adjacencies, very encouraged, still early days. And frankly, there will be another sluggish stuff after this because our philosophy is what's next. And not all of this is going to work. We've got to always get into the marketplace with these innovations, and sometimes, on the more adventurous stuff, you've got to go small. And if you're going to fail, you fail cheap and you fail fast. Hopefully, you won't fail, and you can get some real big winners, and that's our plan.

But let's talk about how we pay for these demand drivers because at Hillshire, we're not just focused on demand generation. We're keenly aware that we have to fund it. So the way we fund it is through our focus on cost efficiency. We have a recent record in the last couple of years of being very aggressive in managing cost. In fact, you may recall that we've taken $90 million of cost out of our P&L across fiscal '11 and fiscal '12, and the way we did that was by rightsizing our company to be a new company, to be Hillshire, $4 billion, a much smaller company, and we took out 600 positions that were unnecessary in the new environment that we operate in.

Also, just last year, we closed 2 plants. So we've continued to rationalize our supply chain network and move that volume into other facilities, so we get more operating leverage out of existing assets. So we have a recent record of managing costs. But we're not going to stop there. We have a relentless attitude when it comes to cost efficiency. In fact, we've committed to an additional $100 million of cost savings across the '13, '14, '15 horizon, and you can see how this breaks out here. And sometimes, I'm asked, "Well, are you going to stop there?" And the answer is absolutely not. We'll never stop. Just like with innovation, we'll never stop. We'll never stop looking for new cost opportunities, and we're looking for them today, supply chain, trade spend, but also how do we get more productivity out of this new leaner culture that we're trying to create because there's an incredible hidden cost of complexity, and I think we all know that. So we will continue to be relentless on cost because this will be the fuel for growth as we try to drive demand.

So let me wrap up with this, and then I'll turn it over to Maria. Clearly, we are focused on building these brands because we want to build value for our shareholders. It's an unbelievable portfolio with significant latent potential. We have an emerging new culture in our company of innovation and agility. We're beginning to see success. We're seeing traction in the marketplace with our products. We're seeing our processes improve. It's early days, but we're seeing success. And we're committed to both growth and profitability, as we drive these brands, and we know we've got to fund those growth drivers with a continued mindset on cost -- a continuous improvement mindset on cost efficiency. At the end of the day, we are very confident we can create a lot of shareholder value out of this portfolio for all of you.

And with that, I will turn it over to our CFO, Maria Henry. Maria?

Maria Henry

Thanks. Thanks, Sean. Before I get into talking about our fourth growth strategy, which is to acquire on-trend brands, let me first pull up and talk more broadly about how we think about our capital allocation priorities. Our first priority is investing in our business. This is consistent with what we've been talking about. It's investing in our business because we see significant opportunities to invest in growth and innovation, to invest behind core capability development and efficiency, to drive sustainable growth and profitability in our company. Each of the investments that we look at internally has attractive financial returns for each of the programs, which we measure diligently. Collectively, the internal investments that we're making in our company are what will move our business from where we are today toward those midterm financial targets that Sean talked to you about.

In terms of our investments, today, we spend just under 4% of our sales in CapEx, and we invest in our business both through our P&L and through our balance sheet. On dividends, for fiscal '13, our dividend is $0.50, so the midpoint of our EPS guidance, that's about a 30% payout ratio, which we consider to be low in relationship to our peers. So we will look to take our dividends up over time.

We think acquisitions are a good way to deploy capital to create value, and I'll talk more about that in just a moment. We consider share repurchases opportunistically, and we continually evaluate them as a good way to create shareholder value against the other capital allocation opportunities that we have in front of us. Right now, given all the opportunities that we have in front of us to create good value with our capital and given the fact that we have a low level of financial leverage, we currently don't expect to pay down debt. So when we think about capital allocation, we look closely at the economics versus one opportunity versus another, and we will deploy our cash to the areas that we think creates the most significant total shareholder return over time.

Now with that, let me talk more about acquisitions and how we think about them. In our company, we've got strong capabilities and assets, and you just heard Sean talk a lot about these. In terms of our category captaincies, our very strong R&D capabilities, we have a fully integrated up-and-running ERP system, an extensive distribution network, so we really have a lot of capabilities and assets that can be further leveraged with additional brands. For example, if you think about our Aidells acquisition, Aidells was just under $100 million in net sales when we acquired it. It's our most-recent acquisitions, and it has grown strong double digits since we've owned it. Not only has Aidells been great for our financial results and given us an entry into a very attractive space in the market, but through the Aidells acquisition, we learned a lot about acquiring and integrating entrepreneurial companies.

Let me tell you a little bit more specifically about how we think about acquisitions. Any acquisition that we look at has to be in line with the strategic vision that we just described, and any deal that we do has to have attractive economics to create shareholder value. Specifically, we are looking for brands that are on trend or give us entry into an attractive space where we don't already have a foothold. We'd also consider acquisitions that give us capabilities that would help fuel our growth agenda. And when we think about an acquisition for capabilities, it really comes down to a build-versus-buy analysis where we would consider risk in timing as well as economics. We're also interested in things that can give us additional scale to leverage the strong capabilities and assets that I spoke to you about just a minute ago. It really comes down to how would we use acquisitions to further create shareholder value with what we've got. And their accretion is very important to us, accretion in terms of helping us with the top line growth, expanding our fundamental margins and of course, accretive to EPS. So in total, we look at acquisitions as a very good way that we'll be able to create value over the next several years with the strong capital that we have. There are very attractive assets in the market, but you know as well as I do that we don't control availability or timing of when we may potentially do something. So I'm talking about acquisitions today not because anything is imminent but because I wanted to provide more color to you on how we're thinking about this important part of our go-forward growth strategy.

So with all of that said, and the 4 aspects of our overall growth strategy, this boils down to us being on track to achieve the fiscal '15 targets that we've been sharing with you: a 4% to 5% top line growth and a sustainable operating margin in our business of 10%.

Now let's look at our current financials. We're at June 30 fiscal year end, so we just completed the first half of our fiscal year '13. We posted very strong financial results in the first half. We grew our sales just over 2% behind our core brands, and our adjusted diluted EPS was up 49% for the first half on a year-over-year basis. Now our profit improvement was significantly helped by lower input costs that were a result of the unusual drought that had last summer. And what that did is it lowered our input commodity costs, and we were able to take advantage of that, and that helped fueled -- fuel our profitability growth.

In addition to the lower input costs, though, our profitability also benefited from our top line growth, as well as the benefit from the cost savings programs that Sean just talked to you about. So a really strong first half, and those results led us to be in the position to take up our EPS guidance for the year when we had our earnings call back in January.

The strong profitability we achieved also gives us the availability of some flexibility to invest more in the second half of our fiscal year, which is exactly what we're doing. For the full fiscal year for '13, our guidance is that we expect our adjusted net sales to be slightly up versus last year. We'll have some more challenging top line comps in the second half. Our adjusted diluted EPS is expected to be $1.60 to $1.70 for the full year. So in total, we are very happy with where we are so far for fiscal '13, and we're very happy with the first half results.

In addition to strong P&L results, we've got a very nice balance sheet. Our business fundamentally is a strong producer of cash flow, and for the first 6 months of this fiscal year, we generated $300 million of EBITDA, and we ended December with a cash balance of $300 million. Now since then, as you know, we sold our Australian Bakery business to McCain for $85 million gross. So today, we have even more cash than what you see on the screen on our balance sheet. So what's the net of this? The net of this is that we're conservatively levered. We have a strong cash balance, and this provides us with a lot of flexibility and the financial resources to execute the strategy that we've been discussing with you this afternoon.

So let me wrap it up where Sean began. We have a terrific portfolio of leading iconic brands that are responding very well to investments. We are on track with our growth and efficiency agendas, and we are well on our way to achieve the midterm financial targets that we've outlined. As we achieve those midterm financial targets, we will be creating significant total shareholder returns over a period of time.

And with that, I'd ask Sean to step back up, and I'd reintroduce Melissa Napier, our Senior Vice President of Investor Relations and our company Treasurer, to address any questions that you have before we go to the breakout. Melissa?

Question-and-Answer Session

Melissa Napier

Great. Why don't we start here with Alexia?

Alexia Howard - Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC., Research Division

So you got all of this innovation happening in the chilled section of the store and the frozen section of the store where space is maybe a little bit more constrained than in the shelf stable areas. Can I just ask you, Sean, maybe how hard is it to build distribution in those areas relative to shelf stable businesses that you've worked in before? And as you build this distribution with all these new products, where is the shelf space coming from? Is it competitors in your segment? Is it from other categories?

Sean M. Connolly

Well, it's a great question. I don't think there's a difference between frozen, refrigerated, shelf stable. The shelf is truly the ultimate meritocracy. Your product has to turn. It's all about velocity. The question is which brands are going to get a shot at it. Now anybody can show up with slotting money and get a temporary shot, but if you want to get scale in there, you have to have credibility. And the good news for us is because of the leading share positions that you saw, we have tremendous credibility with our buyers both in frozen and in refrigerated, so they're thrilled to give us a shot. And I frankly think they have tremendous faith in our brand names because we are market leaders in a lot of those refrigerated and frozen categories that you talk about.

Melissa Napier

Ken?

Unknown Analyst

So in your -- when you last reported, you mentioned that you expected meat costs to rise throughout this calendar year, and I think futures market still anticipate that as well. But if you look at where meat has gone since you've reported, it's been flat to down, and last week, beef and pork prices were down pretty significantly. How much confidence does that give you -- increased confidence, I would ask, in your numbers and in perhaps your ability to reach the high end of those numbers this year if meat does stay a little bit flatter than what you expected? Because I know you said in the past that you buy not everything on the futures market. Certainly, there's some spot as well.

Maria Henry

Yes. The curves certainly have moved recently in the last few weeks. What I said in our earnings call is that in the second half of our fiscal year, we expected the net benefit of price to commodities to be roughly neutral in the second half. In the last few weeks, the curves are moving. Where it really has an impact is how we think about fiscal '14. And I like the current favorability that we're seeing, but I also realize that those can change very quickly. But clearly, with the way things had moved just in the last few weeks, it certainly gives us additional confidence in the targets that we've set out and gives us more confidence in what we hope to achieve in fiscal '14, which I'll have more to say about as we move forward.

Melissa Napier

Jason?

Jason English - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Lots of innovation today. One thing we didn't see that we saw a lot of at the Analyst Day was Ball Park pushing into the frozen case, more of a high margin product area for you. So 2 questions -- 2 parts to that question. One, can you update us on the status of that initiative? And secondly, as we look at the aggregate portfolio of innovation, net, is it mixing higher in terms of margin?

Sean M. Connolly

So on the Ball Park piece, one product I showed you today, which are flame-grilled burgers, those are frozen, and that was our first and frankly, biggest push into the frozen section. The second thing we had, which we put into a small test, which was a line of -- it was a box of either 2 or 4 sliders, and there were some other things. So we ran that test. We completed it. We got the learning from that test. In fact, the team right now is working on the follow-on to that because we got some good learning, but I'm not in a position to debut that today. It's too early. But we did complete that test, and there was a winner in there. So we're working, and we'll be back to you on that a little bit later. In terms of margin accretive, the way to think about it is Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches. So when we got Jimmy Dean into adjacencies, we started with a co-packer. When you start with a co-packer, you pay the tolling fee. You take a bit of gross margin haircut in the early days, and then you repatriate that volume into your existing plant. That maybe how we pursue some of these innovations. Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches right now are some of the highest margin items in our portfolio. So it'll be a mix of doing it internally, doing it externally. The margin will change whether it's external or internal in the early days, but ultimately, the whole goal here of evolving this portfolio from being really 100% meat by weight to not 100% meat by weight is to drive our margins.

Melissa Napier

Rob is telling me I have time for one more question, so we'll go to Andrew.

Unknown Analyst

Just 2 quick things. One would be with a lot of the innovation, particularly on the lunchmeat side, does that help you around some of the excess capacity that you're trying to sort of absorb in the lunchmeat facility in KC as to at least get you along that continuum? Or is there still a long way to go there? And then your main lunchmeat competitor yesterday talked about just not having the right merchandising executions as they wanted in their calendar fourth quarter. I assume that's all sort of built into the way you're thinking about your fiscal second half in terms of what might shift competitively a bit.

Sean M. Connolly

Yes. On Kansas City, we have a phenomenal lunchmeat facility in Kansas City. It's state of the art. The products that you saw today are produced at Kansas City. We are about a 10 share in a $5 billion category, so there's plenty of room for growth. But clearly, for us to be out of capacity again, these are going to have to be successful as we roll them out. But clearly, these are mainstream lunchmeats with excellent brand equity. So yes, these will impact Kansas City, and it will help us really fill up that plant and get that operating leverage out of the plant. In terms of competitive dynamics, what I can say comfortably is that Hillshire Farm is an adult brand equity. We are trying to resonate with adults. We have tremendous credentials with adults, but we didn't live up to it in terms of package and product. We now do. So we think our brand equity, vis-à-vis adults, with the right merchandising and a right shelving support can really play with anybody, and that -- and we're beginning to get traction with customers that frankly had thrown Hillshire Farm out. And now we're back in, and you'll see that coming in the year ahead.

All right. I think we are out of time. Thanks, everybody. Appreciate your time.

Robert Moskow - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

And join me in thanking Hillshire for coming, and they are available in the breakout room. And thank you again for sponsoring the breakfast on Friday.

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Source: Hillshire Brands Company Presents at 2013 Consumer Analyst Group of New York Conference, Feb-20-2013 01:45 PM
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