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Innovation-driven growth, a stunningly clean and well organised site, and a friendly vibe among employees were some of the qualities showcased by the three finalists for Bakery Manufacturer of the Year.

Sponsored by Fritsch (part of Multivac Group), the category was open to businesses operating factories with automated production lines that are striving to be the best in their sector. Entrants were asked to highlight not only their ability to grow and to deliver exceptional products, but also to support their workforce and to take actions towards sustainability.

Here are the top three manufacturers making the finals of the Baking Industry Awards 2023:

Crust & Crumb pizza line

Source: Crust & Crumb

Crust & Crumb

This Northern Ireland company has continued its tremendous growth over the past 11 years to become a major supplier in the baking industry, employing 850 staff across six sites located either side of the Irish border and exporting its range of pizzas and flatbreads to 40 countries.

Having previously won the award in 2021, Crust & Crumb has increased business by 33% in the last 18 months, with investments in new equipment including a £2.5m wood-fired oven to double its frozen pizza production capacity to five million units per week. It also claims to be the biggest gluten-free bakery manufacturer in Europe.

Judges were impressed by its interesting products in the gluten-free area, with the company standing out from others in the market via its flexibility, innovation, and ability to react quickly to customer demand.


Panificio Italiano factory

Source: Panificio Italiano

Panificio Italiano

This independent wholesale bakery operates a £20m production site in Iver, Buckinghamshire, producing an extensive range of artisan products including stone-baked focaccia, ciabatta, rolls, and sourdough. These are supplied either ambient or frozen to customers in the foodservice and airline sectors, which were attracted after a complete business strategy overhaul during the pandemic.

Panificio Italiano claims to hold a waiting list of potential employees, with current staff presented a clear development path up through the ranks. There is also a Facebook-style app for employee engagement, salary support schemes in place, outside bench seating for break times, and solar panels on the roof contributing to its energy needs.

Judges were impressed by the meticulous cleanliness and “chilled and relaxed” work atmosphere at the factory, with not many staff needed due to its high level of automation.


Signature Flatbreads tortilla bread line

Source: Signature Flatbreads

Signature Flatbreads

Based at an industrial park in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, this family-owned manufacturer supplies all manner of flatbreads – from pittas and pancakes to crumpets and wraps – including own-label and branded products to a wide range of customers including major retailers both in the UK and abroad.

The business is currently undergoing a five-year £100m investment plan to further increase production and improve wellbeing facilities for its 1,800-plus employees. One judge noted that Signature Flatbreads had “weathered the pandemic really well”, with strong growth reported during the period – turnover is expected to surpass £300m by next year.

Bespoke engineering solutions and an upcoming automated premixing site, mandatory staff training, promotion of a safety culture, and commitment to the environment were some of the things that garnered positive comments from the judges.


Thanks to our category sponsor