The check is in the mail. Sara Lee (NYSE: SLE) reported second-quarter results yesterday, and though earnings were not up to expectations, management said the consumer product company would make up lost ground during the second half.

You may recall the company reported less than stellar results last quarter, and at the same time increased its full-year guidance. But after missing estimates this quarter by two cents a share (excluding one-time items), management is now holding the line on full-year earnings of $0.82 to $0.88.  

Second-quarter sales growth continued a trend, advancing 9.7%, a modest improvement from 8.3% growth during the first quarter. Adjusted sales grew a less impressive 4.2%. "Adjusted" numbers for Sara Lee exclude the effects of acquisitions, divestitures, and foreign currency.

Operating income (as reported) of $233 million looks like a healthy bump compared with a loss of $2 million last year. It's encouraging to see Sara Lee swing back to profitability. But adjusted operating income was flat with last year's second quarter, and is slightly down (0.7%) for the first six months. Management explained that higher media and promotional spending during the second quarter (up 14%) restrained profits.

All segments of the business reported sales increases, with the most notable volume growth coming from the U.S. bakery, household and body care, and international segments.

While Sara Lee is expecting its sales momentum to build in the second half of this year after the launch of 40 new products in the past three months, this quarter's volume growth is not as strong as Foolish investors have seen recently from other consumer product companies like Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) and Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE: CL).

Commodity costs that have taken a bite out of profitability at Kimberly-Clark (NYSE: KMB) and Kellogg (NYSE: K) are also affecting Sara Lee. But management is confident that cost controls and pricing can offset most of the impact for the balance of the fiscal year.

Overall, I admire the strength of Sara Lee's existing brands, like the namesake bakery products, Hillshire Farms, and Jimmy Dean. I also like the company's diversification -- revenues are nearly evenly split between domestic and international business, and the company competes in a wide variety of product segments. This diversification shields investors from the type of problems Kraft Foods (NYSE: KFT) is experiencing with its heavy dependence on the dairy business.

But "the check's in the mail" only works for a while. Foolish investors might consider waiting until this check arrives before trying to cash in on it.

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Fool contributor Timothy M. Otte surveys the retail scene from Dallas. He welcomes comments on his articles, but doesn't own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this one. The Fool has a disclosure policy.