Kraft Foods Banbury
Originally from Canada, Bense took the reins at Kraft Foods' coffee factory in Banbury almost two years ago and has been making a big impression since then.
Her role marks a welcome return to factory management after a stint in project work and her enthusiasm for the role is obvious. She has presided over significant changes and environmental improvements at a site that has been running for 46 years in one form or another. Its long-standing pedigree, and massive 17-hectare site make the fact that its energy use has been cut by 7% and water use reduced by 12% in the past year even more impressive.
But the environmental initiatives don't stop there. Kenco's recently launched refill packs use 97% less packaging and a newly designed jar, which also uses less glass, has also been introduced. Bense has overseen the switch to the new packaging lines to handle them. In addition, the plant produces electricity from two combined heat and power boilers, some of which is fed back into the national grid.
Couple all this with the implementation of rigorous continuous improvement and lean production programmes, all with minimum disruption, and Bense begins to look like a tough act to follow.
Ranjit Boparan's meteoric rise from humble beginnings in Birmingham culminated earlier this year in a £342M last-minute cash bid for the own-label specialist Northern Foods, which he snatched out of the hands of Greencore.
His acquisitions have included the Harry Ramsden's chain and, together, form an empire with sales of around £2bn.
While his plans for Northern Foods have yet to emerge, if he follows 2 Sisters' customer-centric focus, the shrewd businessman is likely to find favour among the multiples. Boparan, who is said to be undemonstrative of his £100M personal wealth, is well known by members of his senior management team for being very demanding. He keeps a close eye on the grass-roots businesses and stays in touch with his team at evenings and weekends to ensure that his all-important retailer customers' orders are not being shorted.
Boparan also cannily recognised the growing importance of sustainability throughout the food and drink sector and has worked very closely with the likes of Marks & Spencers (M&S) to establish 2 Sisters' Flixton site in Suffolk as a model supplier, ticking all the boxes of M&S's 'Plan A'. Similar plans are known to be in the pipeline at other sites.
In the words of one mergers and acquisition expert, Uniq boss Geoff Eaton has done "remarkably well" to have salvaged something of value from the chilled foods firm, given the problems he inherited as md.
The most pressing and stressful of these was undoubtedly Uniq's £400M-plus pensions deficit. Eaton and his management team finally dealt with the problem this spring via a wholly novel arrangement, which City insiders dubbed a "pension deficit for equity" deal.
This saw Uniq shareholders surrender 90.2% of the company's value, while the pension fund released it from its pensions liability in return. The company subsequently floated on the Alternative Investment Market.
Uniq's board then announced that the pension fund was seeking to sell its stake in the company. This led Eaton to tell FoodManufacture.co.uk last year that the business was "growing and profitable", despite an ongoing review of its desserts business.
When asked how relieved he was to have sorted out the pension issue, Eaton paid tribute to his senior team and said: "It's huge, I've been working on this for the last six years, restructuring Uniq and dealing with issues from the Unigate days. It was a big challenge."
Head of corporate responsibility and sustainability
As the manufacturing arm of a global brand, Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) has to be seen to be doing the right things. This puts pressure on Franses to communicate and spearhead the company's corporate responsibility and sustainability (CRS) initiatives.
One of CCE's biggest projects was calculating the carbon footprint of its global supply chain, which was informed by a pilot project in Great Britain. Out of this sprang its energy conservation and climate change goal for 2020, with three main areas of focus: manufacturing; cold drinks equipment; and transport and distribution. In 2009 the company announced it had reduced energy use for the second year in succession.
Franses promotes best practice in sustainability and regularly highlights CCE’s track record on CRS at events and conferences. CCE's recent ventures include its 2020 commitment to cut packaging weight and recover the equivalent of 100% of its packaging.
Franses helped CCE to work towards achievements publicised in CCE's 2009 Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report, such as reaching 99% recycling rates at its manufacturing sites and achieving an average water use ratio of 1.51l to make one litre of product.
Seabrook's crinkle-cut crisps have always been popular in Northern England, but John Tague has overseen a mainstream revolution at the firm since his promotion from commercial director to md in February 2009.
The Bradford firm now has extensive listings with the likes of Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury and Morrisons. In March Seabrook also secured listings with major London cash and carry concerns.
New listings have been backed by innovative products, and Seabrook's new 'Goodbye salt, hello flavour' range (launched in February) contains 90% less salt than normal varieties, and took years to develop.
Seabrook's success comes despite rising input costs, and speaking to FoodManufacture.co.uk in January, Tague predicted a £34M turnover figure for the year ending September 2011 (it was £12M in 2007/8).
He said that Seabrook was on course to exceed its 2015 turnover target of £63M and is considering building a second factory in the Northampton area.
Seabrook's reversal of fortunes after a tougher period in the early noughties was due to "hard work, engaging with retailers and aligning our strategy with our customers' strategies", said Tague.
British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF)
Since the start of Young's tenure, the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF) has embarked on a campaign aimed at the Herculean task of revamping frozen food's image in the UK.
With the help of researchers at Sheffield Hallam University, the BFFF produced reports comparing the nutritional profile of frozen foods with fresh food. The aim has been to prove that, in many cases, frozen is as good, if not better than fresh and the message has been making headway.
With the help of public relations firm Pelican, Young has been tirelessly communicating this maxim across a range of media, including consumer magazines and the national press. On a wider level, this has helped raise the profile of the entire food manufacturing sector at government level. Most recently, the BFFF secured the services of celebrity chef Aldo Zilli to champion the cause and promote it in foodservice channels.
Meanwhile, Young has established the first BFFF annual conference to bring the industry together and chew on tough commercial issues. He has also presided over a complete revamp of the BFFF's website, seeking to deliver up-to-date information to keep its members abreast with developments.