Sara Lee, the US consumer goods company, has announced it plans to dispose of many of its clothing brands, including Playtex, Wonderbra and Hanes underwear in order to refocus on its food businesses.

The company plans to focus on the meat and bakery goods businesses that the company began with 66 years ago while its US apparel business, with annual sales of $4.5bn, is to be spun off into a separate publicly listed company and the European clothing division is being auctioned off.

Sara Lee also said it will sell a $1bn European meats business and it is quitting the retail coffee business. The disposals produce about 40% current group revenues.

The company's big restructuring programme will be overseen by Brenda Barnes, who was appointed as chief executive yesterday.