Top of the food chain

By Rick Pendrous, Gary Scattergood, Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Ice cream, Milk

Voting for the Personality of the Year award is now open
Voting for the Personality of the Year award is now open
Which of the six candidates below, shortlisted by the Food Manufacture editorial team, do you think has done the most over the past year to raise the profile of the food and drink industry? You can have your say by visiting our web site at foodmanawards. Don't delay, register your vote today!

 Mark Allen

Chief executive, Dairy Crest

In the last six years at the helm of the giant Dairy Crest, straight-talking Mark Allen has, as he puts it, "significantly accelerated"​ the firm's journey from its Milk Marketing Board roots to a leaner, brand-focused outfit with impressive sales.

That's no mean feat against the backdrop of a recession, significant internal restructuring and last year's dairy crisis.

The firm's Cheddar brand Cathedral City was recently named one of Britain's top 10 brands, alongside the likes of Apple and Marks & Spencer in a YouGov survey. This year the brand will be consumed in 50% of British households.

Allen is the first to admit the journey hasn't been easy and there have been several factory closures in recent years, in addition to significant investment into the Cheddar plant at Davidstow and modern packing premises in Nuneaton.

In addition to being the first firm to sign up to the Voluntary Code for Dairy Practice, Allen introduced a new formula-based system for milk pricing, which proved to be incredibly popular with farmers.

Never one to mince his words, he conceded that milk pricing had been a "win/win"​ situation for processors for far too long and that "it was vital we took action to build a relationship based on trust, where everyone can benefit."

Simon Baldry

Md, Coca-Cola Enterprises

Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) md Simon Baldry has lived up to the goal he set last year as a primary sponsor for the London Olympic Games: to leave a lasting environmental legacy, based on the company's own sustainable growth plans.

Under his leadership over the past year, CCE set up a joint venture with recycling firm ECO Plastics to raise levels of recycled materials in its bottles. The Continuum Recycling facility for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) has sorted more than 250M bottles since it opened last year.

Baldry has also supported initiatives to engage visitors to the Olympics to recycle their bottles and young people to recycle at music festivals. He also campaigned for government action to raise kerbside PET recycling.

Baldry has set seven targets for CCE's sustainable growth by 2020, which include reducing the company's greenhouse gas emissions and water footprint, and raising the sustainability of its packaging.

At last year's Olympics, CCE put 22% of sugar cane-based PET into its Coke bottles and 25% recycled PET. It set itself a target of recycling all the plastic bottles used during the Olympics and Paralympics. Some 15M were collected and returned to shelves as part of 63M new bottles over a six-week period.

Richard Clothier

Md, Wyke Farms

Having a major customer such as Morrisons delisting your products could have heralded a period in the doldrums for some family firms.

But not for Somerset-based Wyke Farms and its passionate boss Richard Clothier.

Instead of skulking off to lick his wounds, he launched a social media campaign to get the 40,000 units sold each week at Morrisons back on the shelves.

While the retail giant refused to back down, the David versus Goliath battle made Clothier a hero to many firms that are constantly at the mercy of the multiples' whims.

What's more, Clothier and his team have built on the support to build a thriving online community for Wyke Farms' brands.

And it seems to be paying dividends for the UK's third-biggest Cheddar brand.

Since becoming md in 2005, Wyke Farms has enjoyed massive growth, notching up sales rises of 82% in 2006 alone.

What is more significant, however, is that impressive double digit growth has been sustained every year, despite Morrisons' decision.

Clothier continues to campaign for manufacturers, calling for the Voluntary Code of Practice for the Dairy Industry to be extended to include manufacturers and retailers.

Fiona Kendrick

Chairman and chief executive, Nestlé UK and Ireland

Not content with the demands of running Nestlé UK and Ireland, Fiona Kendrick has worked tirelessly to ease the birth of Britain's first accredited food and drink engineering degree.

Kendrick has prepared the way for the four-year masters, which begins in September 2014 at Sheffield Hallam University in partnership with the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and The National Skills Academy for Food and Drink.

The Nestlé boss has also done much to highlight the yawning skills gap.

Earlier this year, Kendrick hit the headlines when she said few would-be engineers were "willing to really roll up their sleeves"​ and engage with unskilled and semi-skilled operators.

Speaking at the launch of the degree course in Sheffield, she slammed some youngsters' lack of interpersonal skills and food industry knowledge.

"When we went to talk to employees, they said they found​ [in potential recruits] a lack of technical ability combined with commercial acumen,"​ she said after an engineering skills survey carried out by FDF and the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink.

She established her interest in youth training at an early age, having taught biology and chemistry to sixth form students for a year, after studying biochemistry at Liverpool University.

James Lambert

Chief executive and executive chairman, R&R Ice Cream

James Lambert's business ambition is as simple as it is bold: to build an ice cream enterprise to rival Unilever's operation in Europe.

After a string of well-timed acquisitions and last month's sale of the business to private equity firm PAI Partners, Lambert is on track to his goal.

R&R Ice Cream has been, for some time, Europe's largest own-label manufacturer.

In April it scooped up Lancashire family ice cream firm Fredericks in a £49M deal. Lambert said: "We haven't got anything to compete with​ [Unilever's brand] Magnum and, to a lesser extent, Cornetto. This gives us the ammunition."

The deal followed R&R Ice Cream's acquisition of the Yoomoo frozen yogurt brand in January for an undisclosed sum. This added to its swelling portfolio of European ice cream businesses.

The firm acquired Rolland France's third largest ice cream manufacturer in 2010. The following year it bought Durigon, the German own-label ice cream business and Pilpa the French ice cream firm.

Last year it added Italy's leading own-label ice cream manufacturer Eskigel to its portfolio.

R&R Ice Cream has 3,000 employees and 11 production sites across the UK and Europe. Revenues for the year ending December 31 2012 were about £507M (600M).

John Stevenson MP

Chairman, APPG for Food Manufacturing

Carlisle MP John Stevenson is a doughty champion of Britain's food manufacturing sector and takes his role as chairman of the House of Commons All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Food Manufacturing very seriously. But that doesn't mean he isn't critical when he believes the industry needs to be told some home truths.

Having some major players, notably United Biscuits' McVities plant and a 2 Sisters Food Group factory in his constituency probably helps. It also explains his penchant for Custard Creams!

Over the past year the Conservative MP has even joined forces with opposition Labour politicians in fighting for the government to modify legislation to give the new Groceries Code Adjudicator the power to fine supermarkets when they have been found to have abused their power over their suppliers.

Despite it latterly winning the support of government, he isn't a fan of the traffic light front-of-pack nutrition labelling system, which he argues is too simplistic. And he is against regulation to constrain levels of salt, fat and sugar in food and drink.

As chairman of the APPG, however, he has raised the profile of food manufacturing among fellow MPs and ministers who have traditionally failed to understand its importance.

Related topics: People & Skills, Drinks, Dairy

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