Food Manufacture Excellence Awards 2021

Meat processor Cranswick wins top Food Manufacture Excellence Award

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Cranswick wins top Food Manufacture Excellence Award

Related tags Meat & Seafood Bakery Ambient Supply chain Ingredients & nutrition Technology & Automation Training & recruitment Dairy

Hull-based meat processor Cranswick has claimed the top title, Food Manufacture Company of the Year, in the 2021 Food Manufacture Excellence Awards.

Usually the annual event takes the form of a face-to-face networking evening at a swanky London location. However, due to the current COVID-19 lockdown, winners were announced last night in an 1980s-themed virtual ceremony and were selected by a distinguished independent judging panel from a list of 50 finalists across 13 categories. Only the winner of one of the main award categories is eligible to be declared Food Manufacture​ Company of the Year.

“We are delighted to be this year’s winners of the Food Manufacture Company of the Year award,"​ said Cranswick chief executive officer Adam Couch. "In what has been a tough year for everyone we are very thankful to our colleagues for their continued commitment and dedication. We are proud to have supported our customers by delivering excellent service levels to ensure full availability of our products.”

From investing millions of pounds in diversification to continued strong international and domestic growth, Cranswick emerged as the obvious winner. Its close work with one retailer to supply a high quality bacon range made a big impression, as did its dedication to quality assurance from the top down. Its commitment to staff development through training and Apprenticeships across the business also shone through.

Cranswick's two other trophies

The business also received two other trophies: Large Manufacturing Company of the Year and Meat, Poultry & Seafood Manufacturing Company of the Year at the same time.

The judging panel commended Cranswick on an extremely detailed entry, showcasing strong commitment to facilities, people and sustainability and an enviable example of customer relationship building. The company demonstrated substantial local community support, a significant clean energy programme and powerful financials.

Watch the awards broadcast here and relive the moment:


The judges, who collectively boast more than 150 years of industry knowledge and experience, were expertly chaired by Geoff Eaton, chairman of New England Seafood and executive chairman of Butcher's Pet Care.

The panel particularly remarked on the impressive volume of entries in what had been such an extraordinarily tough trading year.

  • The Food Manufacture​ Excellence Awards were sponsored this year by Dawn Foods​ and Fowler Welch​.
  • They were established in 2000 to reward excellence in food and drink processing.
  • Read on for a breakdown of all the winners and visit our awards website​ for more information about the awards and to register your interest in entering the 2022 awards.

Watch a short version of the awards broadcast here.

Overall Awards

Food Manufacture​ Company of the Year: Cranswick

Food Manufacture​ Large Company of the Year: Cranswick

Food Manufacture​ Small Company of the Year: Simply Doughnuts

Judges Special Awards: Iceland; Westaway Sausages

There was insufficient competition to name Iceland Manufacturing​, part of the Iceland Foods Group, as a winner in the frozen food category it had entered. But the judges still felt its entry was as strong as the other category winners and so merited recognition. 

Operating from a bespoke factory in Newton Abbot, Devon, Westaway Sausages​ handles orders ranging from small corner-shop deliveries to pallet supplies across the world, including Asia, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and the Falkland Islands. The company was selected for a judge’s special award for its unique work on developing certified 100% compostable packaging.

Business Leader of the Year (chosen by reader vote from six candidates selected by the editorial team): Kirsty Henshaw, Kirsty's

Henshaw was inspired to found Kirsty’s by her son, who has several allergies. BBC show Dragon’s Den granted her funding in 2010. Ten years later, her business, Kirsty’s, is worth £15m, selling gluten- & dairy-free chilled ready meals, frozen pizzas and frozen desserts via all major UK supermarkets. In July 2020, Kirsty’s announced a £2M investment in an allergen-free factory to help double its size within three years.

Main award categories

Ambient Manufacturing Company of the Year: Princes

Last year Princes invested £5m into the business to encourage ‘rapid growth’, with a focus on innovation in brand creation, product design and development, packaging, commercialisation and channel strategy. The company also pumped cash into boosting product traceability, launching on-pack quick response (QR) codes on its Napolina canned tomatoes, enabling smartphone users to view their quality and sustainability credentials in a broader blockchain-enabled transparency drive.

Bakery Manufacturing Company of the Year: Simply Doughnuts

In 2020, Simply Doughnuts was recognised with a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the ‘innovation’ category. Recent initiatives include work with environmental sustainability specialist Enworks, which uncovered efficiencies in the company’s manufacturing processes, helping to reduce waste ingredients, water use and energy consumption.

Chilled, Fresh & Dairy Manufacturing Company of the Year: Müller UK

Müller impressed the judges with its world class low levels of customer complaints, service level improvements and clear commitment to staff training and food safety. Its case study on working with one main customer to redevelop packaging and boost shelf-life was exemplary. The manufacturer also achieved considerable cost savings and increases in overall operational efficiency and good advances in 6-sigma lean manufacturing techniques.

Free-From Manufacturing Company of the Year: Wholebake

Wholebake is a dedicated gluten-free snack contract manufacturer, based in two BRC AA accredited production sites in North Wales. Its products cover a range of market sectors including weight management, vegan friendly, digestive health and mainstream better-for-you brands. The company insists every supplier completes an extensive self-audit certification before working with it and physically audits the suppliers of its key ingredients. It also works hard to offer support and guidance to smaller suppliers.

Ingredients Manufacturing Company of the Year: Carr's Flour Mills

Carr’s Flour Mills supplies UK bakeries and food manufacturers with British and imported wheat, processed at its mills at Kirkcaldy in Fife, Silloth in Cumbria and Maldon in Essex. The Hutchisons Mill in Kirkcaldy is one of only two remaining flour mills in Scotland. The Maldon mill on the banks of the river Chelmer is the smallest of the three, with 70% of the wheat locally sourced within 30 miles. The Silloth mill has been operating since 1836 and is where all the retail range of bags of Carr’s flour are made and packaged.

Meat, Poultry and Seafood Manufacturing Company of the Year: Cranswick

The company produces fresh pork, gourmet sausages, cooked meat, air-dried bacon, premium cooked poultry, charcuterie, sandwiches and gourmet pastry products. Originally best-known for pork processing, it has successfully diversified over time, establishing a major poultry facility at Eye in Suffolk in the past year.

NEW THIS YEAR: Plant-based Manufacturing Company of the Year: Winterbotham Darby

Sourcing from across Europe, Winterbotham Darby produces plant-based ranges under the Squeaky Bean brand from a dedicated site in Bicester Oxfordshire, for which a multi-million pound refit was completed in August 2020. They are also the exclusive UK partner for Vivera.

Watch a video of Tom Faulkner, head of plant-based at Winterbotham Darby​, prior to the awards announcement.

You can also watch videos of the two other finalists in this category, Freaks of Nature​, Glebe Farm Foods​.

Industry Initiative Awards

Food Manufacture​ Award for Export: Symington's

This is now the second year in a row that ambient food firm Symington’s, whose brands include Naked, Twistd and Chicken Tonight, has received this award. Since last year’s win, it has continued to build on its US success with six more Walmart listings for its Naked range, and plans with the retailer to roll out more products under its Twistd brand.

Food Manufacture​ Service Provider Partnership Award: Addo Food Group/Newton

Chilled savoury pastry manufacturer Addo teamed up with operational improvement specialists Newton to improve line efficiency and reduce waste. The partners created LineVision, an ‘internet-of-things’ solution facilitating live data capture from factory lines. Over 18 months, the project surpassed targets to save substantial costs, with further savings expected by year-end.

Food Manufacture​ Training Award: PepsiCo

PepsiCo has provided accredited educational apprenticeship development programmes to all its frontline employees across the UK through its Grow our Own training initiative. The scheme has provided a solid foundation on which to build a sustainable internal talent pool of operations personnel.

People Awards

Food Manufacture​ Apprentice of the Year:Joint winners: Amelia Cockran, Coca-Cola European Partnerships; Emily Chater, Pilgrim's Pride

CCEP identified Amelia​ as a highly-skilled member of the team across a wide range of tasks – from equipment maintenance and replacing conveyors to identifying and responding to breakdowns. She has played a vital role on CCEP’s recently installed automated storage and retrieval system warehouse. She has become a key advocate for the manufacturing and engineering industry within her local community and at careers fairs.

Listen to a podcast with Amelia​ commenting on her position as a finalist before the winners' announcement.

In recognition of her hard work, Emily​ was promoted to technical service manager for a maternity cover, demonstrating a hunger to progress and take on new responsibilities. This was demonstrated during her stint as a production operative when operations were reduced due to the coronavirus pandemic. She has also been the spokesperson for Pilgrim’s Pride’s apprenticeship scheme at local colleges and schools.

Listen to a podcast of Emily​ reacting to being picked as a finalist.

You can also listen to podcasts of Apprentice of the Year finalists Gabrielle Freeman​ of Pilgrim's Pride, and Henry Greer​ of Finnebrogue Artisan.

Food Manufacture​ Site Team of the Year: Carr's Flour

The team at Carr’s Flour Silloth, Cumbria, played a crucial role in a new supply deal with a major retailer during the coronavirus pandemic. Within three weeks of a surprise phone call from a national multiple’s head office, the team signed off and implemented all commercial, technical & logistic requirements to supply its stores with Carr’s branded flour. It was a process that would usually take six to 12 months to happen. This was at a time when retail flour was in massive shortage, due to unprecedented consumer demand.

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