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Hillshire Brands CEO Sees Possible Acquisitions in 2014

Hillshire Brands Co. will look at making acquisitions next year and is focused on creating more chicken items as consumers demand healthy options, Chief Executive Officer Sean Connolly said.

“It’s a great acquisition environment,” Connolly said today at The Year Ahead: 2014, a two-day conference in Chicago sponsored by Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Businessweek.

Hillshire, owner of meat brands Jimmy Dean and Ball Park, bought gourmet jerky maker Golden Island for $35 million in September. The foodmaker is facing competition from Kraft Foods Group Inc.’s Oscar Mayer meats and Hormel Foods Corp., owner of Jennie-O turkey, as well as declining U.S. consumer confidence.

The company is focused on health and is working on new chicken and turkey items to help boost sales, Connolly said.

There is a “continued trend toward wellness,” he said.

Hillshire was known as Sara Lee Corp. before spinning off its tea and coffee segment last year. It renamed itself Hillshire in June 2012 and appointed Connolly CEO. The company has since focused on improving lunch meat quality, creating new hot dog flavors and winning over more customers with lower-calorie breakfast sandwiches. The company’s Jimmy Dean Delights bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches have 230 calories.

The shares rose 0.6 percent to $32.66 at the close in New York. Chicago-based Hillshire has climbed 16 percent this year, compared with a 25 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

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