Sponsored by Sonneveld

Winner: Macphie

Scottish family business Macphie produces sauces, fillings, toppings, glazes, mixes and concentrates in Glenbervie, Aberdeenshire, and chilled and frozen ingredients in Tannochside, near Glasgow.

This 90-year-old firm has been a pioneer of product innovation and environmental responsibility. One of its biggest achievements in the past two years has been to open a facility producing cookie dough pieces for ice cream, cake and dessert manufacturers. This has involved a spend of over £1m in robotics and other equipment. 

Macphie also invests heavily in new product development, such as its 30% reduced-sugar range, using a natural vegetable fibre made from chicory root to replace the sugar. This has exceeded the government target of 20% sugar reduction for manufacturers by 2020. 

Over the next two years, it plans to invest a further £2m in new technology, including a robot that can operate at -30°C, minimising the workforce’s exposure to extreme temperatures. 

Two wind turbines provide 70% of the firm’s energy at its Glenbervie site, and a biomass plant produces 80% of the factory’s steam requirements. 

“We work hard to deliver innovative products and service food solutions that inspire our customers,” says MD Andy Underwood.

Finalist: Bright Blue Foods

Quality products at the right price is the aim of Bright Blue Foods (BBF), which supplies leading retailers across the UK and Europe.

Its Luxury Mince Pies for Iceland topped the Good Housekeeping awards and won two Q awards including the highest accolade, a Golden Q award, while its Christmas cake won a BBC Good Food accolade. 

The firm has four production sites, two in Blackburn and one each in Bradford and Poland, all with new product development facilities. These employ more than 1,000 people.

Its products include mince pies, mini and Swiss rolls, slab cakes, jam tarts, fruit pies and celebration cakes. Last year BBF produced 158 million fairy cakes, more than 60 million mince pies and 111 million mini chocolate rolls. 

BBF has spent £2.3m on improving its manufacturing capability and efficiency, and has an accredited environmental management system, with legislative and best practice standards for recycling and waste segregation where possible.

Its stated objectives going forwards include being the “supplier of choice” in ambient cake in the UK and Europe.

Finalist: Bells of Lazonby

Based in the village of Lazonby, near Penrith, Cumbria, family firm Bells has seen significant growth in the past year, says MD Michael Bell (pictured).

The company produces an extensive range of goods, from handmade and stencilled artisan breads to rolls, sweet pastry pies – including more than two million mince pies – as well as cutting and loaf cakes, mini bites, cake slices and round cakes. Sweet snacks include salted caramel brownies, and millionaire flapjacks, while its best-sellers include large, flavoured meringues with combinations of berry and lemon, each one hand-piped.

Business has been boosted by a manufacturing partnership with Premier Foods to make gluten-free loaf cakes and Bakewell tarts. As well as its conventional bakery, which manufactures for retail and foodservice, the company has a dedicated gluten-, wheat- and dairy-free bakery, built in 2002. Gluten-free cake slices feature its well-known brand We Love Cake.

Bells employs 275 people and has recently enrolled 20 employees on management and leadership training courses.