Carrs Foods International director Paul Baker tells Alice Cooke what a difference winning The Customer Focus Award has made to the business

The aptly-named Paul Baker, who says he was born to be in the trade, admits to being “a slow starter”, as it has taken him more than 20 years to win a Baking Industry Award. This is not, he is quick to add, because he tried and failed, but more because it took him that long to pull his socks up and enter.

Although he had been up for a Baking Industry Award back in the early nineties in what was then the Student Baker of the Year category. Baker was runner-up then and says he couldn’t have been more delighted about it.

“Ever since then I have always wanted to win a BIA, but nothing prepares you for how great it feels to win,” he says.

But why the big gap between BIA entries? “We all felt we had a really compelling case for The Customer Focus Award this time. You want to be in it to win it and we had a really good feeling about our entry,” he says.

This intuition paid dividends, as the judges were “extremely impressed” with the company’s entry, according to John Lindsay, senior vice-president sales Europe and chief commercial officer at CSM Bakery Solutions, which judged and sponsored the category. “The Carrs entry was of the highest quality,” he added.

Baker says The Customer Focus Award is a “truly prestigious” trophy to take home.

Global business

Through the win, he says, the company has been given “an amazing opportunity to showcase our global business and really show what we can offer”. Part of the reason Carrs took the crown was the company’s work in the US, and Baker says it felt like fate that it had flown in one of its American customers for the evening.

“That was without any inkling that we’d win; we just knew the customer would enjoy the night. Just to be a finalist was honour enough, and the win was the icing on the cake,” he adds. “To have our customer there to share it with us just felt right. It’s such an exciting win for us.”

Baker notes that the company has taken home a few awards over the past few years, adding, “But we are bakery specialists and these are the bakery awards – it’s just different, in the best possible way.”

Baker says the award has been a great way to reach both new and existing customers. “The proof is in the pudding. We won it because we’re good at what we do, and this just proves it.”

And why does he think customer service is so important? “We live in a challenging world and, as a business, you constantly need to stay relevant.

“Our company has a flexible structure that allows us to give customers what they want, exactly when they want it. You have to focus on your customer and listen to exactly what they’re asking for – in our industry that means great products and great prices, wherever that might be in the world.”

To deliver on that promise is very challenging, he adds.

“But we’re very proud of how we do it, and our results speak for themselves. The reason we are growing so fast is the support and loyalty of our customers. They are everything.”

Of the evening itself, he says: “It was fantastically glamorous.”

Baker was particularly amused by the can-can dancers who greeted him on-stage. “I went up to shake presenter Matt Dawson’s hand, and then thought it would be more polite to greet the ladies first. I think he was slightly taken aback, but it did tickle him, we were chuckling away.

“Joking aside, the ladies were brilliant and the evening was perfect. In fact, the Moulin Rouge theme was very apt for us, because we have the Eiffel Tower on our St Pierre range’s packaging. It was as if the stars aligned!”

Baker has been with Carrs for “a happy 13 years” and says this has been the pinnacle of his time with the company to date.

“We couldn’t be more delighted, more grateful, more honoured. I want to thank CSM personally for sponsoring the award – without the sponsorship of these companies, the evening wouldn’t exist, and that would be a travesty. So on the record and officially, thank you so much.”

According to Baker there are only two types of people, customers and potential customers. “And now, thanks to this win, they can all see where they should be taking their business.”

Sponsor’s comment

“Carrs’ entry was of the highest quality,” says John Lindsay, senior vice-president sales EU and chief commercial officer at CSM.

“It included a lot of thought and demonstrated attention to detail, as well as being well presented. The company clearly recognises the customer gap in the market and the opportunity that this presents to both Carrs and its customers.

Carrs worked collaboratively on its entry and executed the campaign efficiently and effectively to provide the right solutions – it was a very worthy winner.”

Carrs Foods’ Paul Baker is pictured receiving The Customer Focus Award from CSM Bakery Solutions chief commercial officer John Lindsay (l) and host Matt Dawson.