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When Laura Shapira joined Sara Lee Bakery in September 1997 as senior marketing manager, the company had a mission: Double the size of its flagship cheesecake business.

That was accomplished in nine months.

The doubling actually occurred in two test markets-Chicago and San Francisco-where Ms. Sharpira successfully tested a category breakthrough: Sara Lee Cheesecake Bites.

Now that Sara Lee is undertaking a $20 million rollout, she's confident the feat can be replicated nationally.

"In the first six weeks of Information Resources Inc.'s [national] consumption data, we are tracking ahead of expectations," says Ms. Shapira, 30, boosted this year to director of brand marketing.

In test, Cheesecake Bites didn't just drive up sales of Sara Lee's base brand cheesecake-it's also credited with increasing sales of all Sara Lee Bakery lines 12% and the cheesecake category 27%.

Not bad for what the former Procter & Gamble Co. brand manager admits was a "sleepy category."

The wake-up call came when research identified three optimal product attributes, what Sara Lee calls the three "i's"-individual, immediate and indulgent.

That insight led to the new product, new packaging and new TV and print advertising from Foote, Cone & Belding, Chicago, urging: "Add a little delicious to your life."

The budget "was bigger than any spent on a [Sara Lee] launch in 10 years," she says.

From the first research finding, it took her team six short weeks to come up with product prototypes of Bites, made via a new process that allows the sweet snack to be eaten straight from the freezer.

And that's exactly how they are consumed. Ms. Shapira says 65% of Bites are

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