Food Manufacture Excellence Awards

FMEAs: cast your vote for Business Leader of the Year

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

The finalists for Business Leader of the Year have been revealed
The finalists for Business Leader of the Year have been revealed

Related tags Food manufacture excellence awards

The time has come to cast your vote for the next Business Leader of the Year to be crowned at the Food Manufacture Excellence Awards (FMEAs).

Some things don’t change. There’s continuity for many awards and one that stands apart from others is our Business Leader of the Year Award.

Unlike other categories, this focuses on individuals who embody the qualities of excellence at the heart of the FMEAs. They may exemplify inspiring leadership, ethical values or consistent business acumen that not only benefits their own companies, but the sector as a whole. See the box below for the big reveal on who’s in the running this year and cast your vote.

The FMEAs’ commitment to consistent core values alongside adaptation that reflects industry developments is why they have remained, in the words of Rob Stephens, boss of longstanding sponsor Systems Integration, “the awards that everyone wants to win”.

Clearly, this year is no different and, since their launch at the beginning of June, Food Manufacture has met with a flood of online entries in every category.

The full list of the award categories can be found at

New categories

The industry’s agility and flexibility in adapting to relentlessly changing consumer trends is legendary. That’s why FMEAs constantly evolve to highlight the sector’s dogged innovation, while remaining true to the core aim of showcasing and rewarding manufacturing excellence.

With this in mind, Food Manufacture is proud to bring you this year, for the first time, the brand-new main entry category, Free-from Manufacturing Company of The Year.

The award is designed to celebrate UK manufacturers that have demonstrated operational excellence in one or more free-from categories over the past 12 months.

With allergen labelling now assuming such a high profile, this accolade is aimed at processors developing free-from alternatives to products traditionally containing one or more of the 14 main allergens listed by the Food Standards Agency.

Free-from food sales growth



Fowler Welch


Michael Page


According to Kantar data, in the 52 weeks to 9 September 2018, free-from food sales grew by 37.5%, suggesting they have passed the £1bn mark, with household penetration standing at an impressive 92.1%.

Alongside traditional free-from niches such as gluten-free and dairy-free, another area attracting intense and growing interest is meat-free. According to research published in November 2018 by Mintel, sales of meat-free foods increased by 22% from 2013–2018 to reach an estimated £740m last year.

Many of the same drivers, such as health concerns, are motivating consumer purchasing here too. Consequently, Food Manufacture has opened free-from entries to the makers of specialist meat-free products, including plant-based foods.

In addition to the main sponsors, the FMEAs are backed by associate sponsors Markel and KDH.

Business leaders finalists

The Food Manufacture Business Leader of the Year Award showcases leaders making waves in the industry. Vote for your winner from the shortlist below at

  • Elaine Swift, regional director, N. Europe, UCC Coffee

Swift is one of the most influential women in the coffee industry, with more than 20 years’ experience in the sector. Joining UCC in 1996, she now drives the delivery of its Total Coffee Solution service, tailored to individual commercial customers across northern Europe. In 2018, UCC Coffee UK & Ireland surpassed £100m in sales and employed more than 500 people.

  • John Power, CEO, Symington’s

Power took the helm at branded convenience food firm Symington’s in October 2016 and led it through a tough financial period, announcing in early 2018 it had returned to growth and keeping this momentum ever since. He began his food industry career with Associated British Foods (ABF) in 2007 as operations director for The Silver Spoon Company.

  • Ibrahim Najafi, CEO, Froneri UK

Formed in 2016 as a joint venture between UK-based R&R Ice Cream and Nestlé, ice cream supplier Froneri UK has been steered by Najafi through intense cultural change. That includes the June acquisition of Nestlé-owned Noga Ice Creams in Israel under Najafi’s leadership. Results for 2018 indicate operating profit doubled on strong sales growth.

  • Marnie Millard, CEO,  Nichols

Having been awarded an OBE for services to business in the north- west and international trade in October 2018, Millard oversaw one of Nichols’ most challenging years last year, with the introduction of the sugar levy. However, rather than faltering, the business has come out flying, with Vimto brand value having jumped £10m to now be worth £90m, following a decade of continuous growth.

  • Rachel Griffiths, director of business, Moy Park

Griffiths is responsible for business strategy, planning and insights at Moy Park. In addition to contributing to the continued growth of this £1.5bn company in a challenging market, she has considerable influence on the development of people and skills. She is a passionate advocate of gender equality in the workplace and a strong supporter of charities such as Farm Africa.

  • Mark Chantler, CEO, Meadow Foods

Independent dairy processor Meadow Foods has built its success on its diversification into a range of ingredients and channels and bespoke product development services for customers. Chantler has led the charge, having joined the company as a management trainee in 2011 and having been promoted from group commercial director to CEO in 2017.

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