The glittering awards ceremony was held at The Marriott, Grosvenor Square in London last month.
What makes these awards so special is that, rather than the end product, they recognise cross-disciplinary and cross-departmental excellence - the unsung heroes that make successful products.
A record number of entries this year meant that competition was particularly tough, so congratulations to Food Manufacture's Excellence Award Winners.
Food Manufacture Company of the Year Sponsored by: Food Manufacture
This coveted title goes to the overall winner, selected from the individual category winners. Demonstrating all round manufacturing excellence, this company has truly proved itself to be the best in the business.
Winner: Arla Foods UK
This dairy giant supplies around 25% of the total British fresh liquid milk market, processing over 2bn litres of milk each year. "I was impressed by the sheer volume of what Arla does," said one judge.
The firm has demonstrated excellence in category management, even nabbing the top spot in the margarine sector. "Getting Lurpack ahead of Flora by marketing yellow fats was an amazing feat," said the judges.
The company also impressed the judges with its achievements in the free-from market. The dairy identified a gap in the market for a lactose-free cows' milk and developed Lactofree using a technique patented by Arla. The brand is valued at £2.419M.
Food Manufacture Personality of the Year Sponsored by: Barclays
The Food Manufacture Excellence Awards have been recognising excellence in food manufacturing companies for seven years. But we have never celebrated the people at the top of these businesses until now. This title has been awarded to an individual who has made the most significant contribution to the sector over the last year.
- Ian Blackburn, chief executive, Zetar
- Helen Colley, md, Farmhouse Fayre
- Martin Davey, chairman, Cranswick
- Preet Grewal and Praveen Vijh, founders, Eat Natural
- Robert Schofield, chief executive, Premier Foods
- Jonathan Warburton, chairman, Warburtons
- Dave Woodward, president, Heinz UK & Ireland
Winner: Helen Colley
Colley hit the headlines by securing a listing at Tesco when she stood up at a conference and asked Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy why he didn't stock her puddings. It is her upfront attitude that won her so many votes and she is living proof that women can make a name for themselves in this male-dominated industry.
Farmhouse Fayre has now been snapped up by Daniels Chilled Foods, but Colley remains md and continues to explore new opportunities at the premium end of the market, in a bid to double turnover over the next three years.
Ambient and General Groceries Sponsored by: S A Partners
Winner: Manchester Rusk Company
It may be a small firm, but Manchester Rusk certainly has big ambitions for growth. The company has a fast track development team, and aims to launch two new products to market on an annual basis for the next three years. Last year, the firm launched a novel instant marinade, which currently holds a 4% value share and an 8% share of the total grocery multiple in the marinades sector.
A combination of lean manufacturing and a £400,000 investment in new machinery has significantly increased the group's output capacity. "My heart went out to Manchester Rusk Company," said one judge. "The company has demonstrated impressive growth and great key performance indicators."
The business has seen a £750,000 sales increase to £6.48M across the industrial, butchery and retail categories and plans to double this over the next five years.
General Mills UK, HJ Heinz, Manchester Rusk Company and Tyrrells Potato Chips
Bakery Sponsored by: Christian Salvesen
Winner: Bells of Lazonby
What started off as a one man band making and delivering bread and cakes to the doorsteps of homes in Cumbria has blossomed into a successful business with five retail outlets, an organic restaurant and listings in numerous retailers.
The 240-strong company has worked hard to improve its supply chain, raising internal performance measure from 98.5% to 99% order fulfilment in January 2007.
Corporate turnover has grown from £8M in 2002/3 to £12M in 2006/7, thanks mainly to strength of its key brands. The company's new OK Foods brand, established in 2003 with the aim of becoming one of the leading independent lines of gluten free, wheat free and dairy free bakery products in the UK, has achieved 66% growth.
This has led to an increase in listings for OK from seven to 25. "Bells of Lazonby is an innovative family company making impressive inroads into the allergen-free category," said the judges.
Staff training is an important factor at the firm. One of the assistant technical managers is completing a food science degree at Leeds University and the group's technical assistant is doing a foundation course with a view towards a professional qualification. "This is a company that really takes staff development seriously and it's obviously doing the trick," said the judging panel.
Bells of Lazonby, Butt Foods, Giles Foods and Johnstones Bakeries
Chilled Ready Meals and Prepared Foods Sponsored by: Jarvis Johnson
Winner: Pasta King
Specialist supplier of pasta and pasta sauces to the foodservice sector, 85% of Pasta King's meals are sold into schools, colleges and universities across the UK. The company has increased its market share in state secondary schools by 10% and experienced a 66% increase in uptake of product in schools supplied by the firm.
By introducing a supply chain improvement programme, the processor's production costs have fallen by 28% from 2004 to 2007, despite an increase in sales. "The group has seen an amazing sales increase," said one judge. "NPD-wise, I love the idea of hidden vegetables in children's pasta products."
The company also embarked on a waste minimisation initiative, which transformed its environmental impact. This led to the diversion of over 139t of waste from landfill and saved the firm £120,800.
Bighams, Greencore Prepared Foods, Pasta King and Samworth Brothers
Dairy Sponsored by: DKSH
Winner: Arla Foods UK
Arla implemented a supply chain optimisation programme 18 months ago to drive efficiency and continual improvement. This involved site team participation within the process, promoting ownership and accountability. Cross-functional communication was improved and supply chain alignment from customer to production was achieved.
Environmental management was also under the spotlight at the dairy manufacturer, which launched a major waste reduction initiative. Arla really impressed the judges with its 300t packaging reduction and the panel also praised the dairy's staff training scheme. "The firm's people development scheme was very structured," they said. "There was good demonstrable continuous improvement at Arla - it was a clear winner."
Arla Foods UK, The Cheese Company, Wyke Farms and Yeo Valley Organic
Fresh Produce Sponsored by: SSi
Winner: Stubbins Marketing
This family business was formed in 1964 with the purchase of its first cucumber nursery in the Lea valley. The company has since grown to become an established grower, packer and importer of fresh salads to UK retailers.
The group's service level over the last 12 months is 99.6% and it has achieved the highest British Retail Consortium level at its Waltham Cross production facility.
In order to ensure all opportunities within the firm's category were exploited, Stubbins conducted range and gap analysis, which resulted in range and design changes to address the shortfall in premium product sales. The judges felt that the team had done a super job in working with retailers to better understand them. "Stubbins' ethical trading and integrated objectives with majors were really strong," they said.
The company has its own fleet of trucks within its Continental Express transport division and is in the process of replacing these vehicles with lower emission versions.
The firm has also worked on maximising load fills and increasing case sizes to provide efficiencies. Stubbins' dual compartment trucks are capable of transporting different products at different temperatures within the same delivery. Having its own transport means the firm is able to improve its response times to customer demands.
English Village Salads, R B Organic, Southern Salads and Stubbins Marketing
Frozen Foods Sponsored by: N R Evans
Winner: Green Gourmet
Despite a nationwide fall in school meals uptake, the company's investment in the sector has resulted in sustained growth. Turnover is on target to reach £5.6M in 2007.
The company has built on extensive market research and recipe design, as well as a detailed knowledge of the new school food standards, to offer a comprehensive range of meat and fish products tailored to the changing needs of school caterers. The firm employs its own nutritionists, who provide hands-on support to caterers in developing menus that meet both nutritional guidelines and budget restrictions.
Green Gourmet's forward-thinking approach and customer-focused ethos has enabled the group to take a leadership role in new product development.
The judges felt that the company was making a great effort to create healthier foods for children and was particularly impressed with its Scoolcrumb non-flash-fried breadcrumb coating. "Green Gourmet is doing something different - it's pushing all the right buttons in trying to address nutritional issues for kids," they said.
The firm is also concentrating on sustainability issues and has switched the sourcing of nine of its main fish species to Marine Stewardship Council-certified stocks.
Fredericks Dairies, Greencore Frozen Foods, Green Gourmet and McCain Foods
Meat and Poultry Sponsored by: Air Products
Winner: Esca Food Solutions
Esca works closely with McDonald's new product development team on a regular basis in order to understand and service its customer's requirements.
Esca's submission came across as very polished and the judges felt that the quality of the firm's products was superb. "To achieve the standards to get such high levels of performance and quality is exceptional, particularly when serving such a demanding customer as McDonald's," they said.
This high level of commitment has also been recognised by Esca's main customer, which voted the firm McDonald's Supplier of the Year in 2006.
Esca's outbound service levels are recorded at 100% for both product availability and timing. The firm received a '5' rating, signifying top performance in the McDonald's Supplier Quality Index.
Challenger Foods, Dalehead Foods, Esca Food Solutions and Scotbeef
Seafood Sponsored by: Macphie
Winner: Lossie Seafoods
Within the last five months, Lossie Seafoods has opened up four new export destinations, including Kuwait and Bahrain in the Middle East. In 2006, exports accounted for 96% of Lossie's £2.9M sales, and the firm expects this to increase by a further £1M by the end of the year.
The company's efforts to research different business practices within different cultures were highly praised.
The panel also loved Lossie's approach to teambuilding and felt that this had an extremely positive effect on employees' attitude to work. "Lossie's marketing and new product development were strong areas and I think that staff golf and barbeque events really boost team morale and ensure low absenteeism," said one judge.
Lossie Seafoods, Shetland Seafish and The Big Prawn Company
Small Company of the Year Sponsored by: Sheffield Hallam University
In a world where biggest is often viewed as best, Food Manufacture feels it is important to acknowledge the achievements of smaller firms, which is why the Small Company of the Year award has been introduced.
Winner: Pasta King UK
Despite reports that many catering suppliers are struggling to deliver school meals in the higher quality standards, the company has seen sales turnover soar. Over the last 12 months sales have risen 50% from £5.9M to £9M. "Pasta King has carved a market in the school meals sector, which is a really cut throat business - it's got impressive key performance indicators," said the judges.
Meanwhile, turnover per employee has risen by 31% year-on-year to £138,821.
Judges Special Award Sponsored by: Pinsent Masons
Winner: Yeo Valley Organic
Although the judges' special award usually focuses on one or two areas of excellence, the panel felt that Yeo's entry was really well-rounded and thoroughly deserving of recognition.
Many companies are only now getting to grips with corporate social responsibility, but it is clear to see that Yeo Valley is ahead of the game in this area through its commitment to British farming. The panel felt that the company was really trying to make a difference to the way that manufacturers are perceived by customers, suppliers and consumers.
Supply chain improvement was another area where the manufacturer really impressed the judges, by going the extra mile to meet the needs of smaller retailers with its new van sales initiative in the South West.
The judges were eager to celebrate the company's success across a range of sectors and this award acknowledged Yeo Valley's commitment to continuous improvement.
The judges described the firm as a "world-class leader" and felt that its new product development work was highly commendable. The panel were big fans of the firm's organic yoghurt in a tube aimed at children. "Yeo Valley Organic is a truly world-class company, which takes a holistic approach to business and clearly has tremendous new product development credentials," said the judges. "Yeo's entry demonstrates that it is a company that really puts its money where its mouth is," they added.
Apprenticeships Sponsored by: Improve
Winner: Craig Riches, Banham Poultry
Riches began his career as a part-time forklift truck driver. His role was to load Banham Poultry heavy goods vehicles as part of a small team. He was keen to progress and saw the apprenticeship as a great way to develop his skills, without having to leave his workplace environment.
By attending a Train the Trainer course, Riches was able to further develop his communication skills and was promoted to assistant transport manager earlier this year. He is also studying for his Certificate of Professional Competence with the Road Haulage Association, which shows his commitment to learning as much as possible about his role.
The judges were really impressed with the way Riches' career has developed and felt him a very deserving winner. "There was good evidence of job progression in this entry," said one judge. "It's great to see people reaching their full potential."
Riches learnt his new skills through Norfolk-based Poultec Training, which serves rural communities throughout the UK. Riches' training assessor felt that he had demonstrated an excellent knowledge of his company's procedures and had mastered the organisation of his duties, while maintaining a good level of control over the work area and staff.
Ken Laurie from Grampian Country Food Group, Jonathan Pearson from Schwans Consumer Brands UK and Craig Riches from Banham Poultry
Diversity in Recruitment Sponsored by: Maxsys
Winner: Fosters Bakery (Staincross)
This Barnsley-based business has a history of steady growth and employs 230 full-time equivalent employees.
Fosters has taken part in a number of initiatives to help assist unemployed people back to work. The judges felt that the company had taken a "proactive" approach, in adopting a strategy to deal with local community issues.
The firm is keen to uplift the reputation of the baking industry in the local area. The bakery has participated in the 'Entry to Employment' scheme through Barnsley College and also offers opportunities for ex-offenders that have just been released from prison, as well as those in open-prison. "This is a well integrated story with lots of energy and action on different fronts," said the judges.
Fosters Bakery (Staincross), Memory Lane Cakes and R & R Ice Cream UK
Productivity Through Skills Sponsored by: Improve
Winner: International Cuisine
The firm signed up to the North East Productivity Alliance's 'Narrow and Deep' lean manufacturing programme in 2005 to help staff become more independent.
In order to help workers develop their managerial skills and increase their confidence, individuals at International Cuisine are given additional responsibilities, such as the opportunity to practice deputising for their manager or team leader when that person is on holiday. "International Cuisine makes a great practice story. The firm has taken a very cultural approach to lean manufacture and the entry showed impressive stats," said the judges.
International Cuisine, Loch Fyne Oysters and The Glenmorangie Company