Putting the Juice Back in Jimmy Dean Sausage Sales

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Ellen Turner has disrupted companies in a variety of sectors from package goods to copy shops in her 20 years as a brand marketer.

Ellen Turner, president, U.S. Retail, Sara Lee Foods.

As marketing director at Cadbury Schweppes, Ms. Turner helped turn juice brand Sunkist into a caffeinated beverage to draw in teens and bring truth to the ad theme "Good vibrations." At Kinko's, she developed the idea of blue aprons for employees as a signal of their helpfulness, part of a company transformation that invited consumers to "express yourself."

Re-energizing meat brands
Now, as president of U.S. Retail for Sara Lee Foods, the 43-year-old fireball is likewise focused on transforming and re-energizing a group of meat brands including Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Ball Park and Sara Lee to -- in her words -- "make them relevant again ... dust 'em off and make them grow."

Raised in Texas, the daughter of an Apollo program engineer father and an artist mother, Ms. Turner says "disruption is in my DNA." During her days working toward a degree in commerce, operations and distribution from the University of Virginia (where she was a competitive swimmer), Ms. Turner won an award from the American Advertising Federation, an experience that opened her eyes to advertising. After getting an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, she joined Frito-Lay, then moved to Cadbury Schweppes.

The Eight P's
Since then, Ms. Turner has had a toe in a variety of industries including retail, where she partnered with Limited Brands founder Leslie Wexner to develop a brand philosophy for what she says had been viewed solely as stores. Ms. Turner developed for Mr. Wexner a discipline she calls the "Eight P's" of retail: product, price, place, promotion, projection, people, paranoia and, of course, profit. Kinko's came next, then Nike, and now her experience is all being channeled into Sara Lee Foods.

Nearly two years ago, when Ms. Turner was brought on as president of breakfast for Sara Lee, Jimmy Dean was a slow-growing commodity sausage company. Now, she says, revenue is growing 40% and a new convenience-oriented frozen breakfast line has hit $100 million in sales.

Nurturing and demanding
Ms. Turner herself deems her management style a mix between nurturing and demanding command and control, a duality perfectly expressed during a recent reward trip to Mexico for the team that helped drive the transformation of Jimmy Dean. Golf and beach time, yes, but only after serious strategic planning sessions.

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