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This category acknowledges bakery businesses that are able to demonstrate innovation-driven growth, delivery of high-quality products on a large scale, excellent customer service, and smart investments in their staff.

Winner: Signature Flatbreads

The family-owned flatbread specialist has risen once again to claim top honours.

Repeating its 2016 success in the category, Signature Flatbreads was lauded by judges for the “warm and friendly atmosphere” it has created for its 1,800 employees working at the sprawling site on the outskirts of Dunstable in Bedfordshire.

“How they looked after their workforce really came across,” commented one judge, with another noting the staff “seemed genuinely happy to work there”. Mandatory staff training, safety culture promotion, and environmental commitments all received a thumbs up as well.

The scale of operations also impressed, with all manner of pittas, pancakes, wraps, crumpets and more created daily on dozens of production lines. These are both for own-label ranges of major retailers in the UK and abroad, and for the company’s Deli Kitchen brand (recent launches include Tear & Share Flatbread and Indian Spiced Wraps).

In-house innovation was another area that grabbed the interest of judges, with one remarking: “The fact that Signature has its own team of engineers and designs its own production line solutions is nothing short of outstanding”. An automated pre-mixing facility featuring unmanned ground vehicles is set to come online in the near future, garnering much excitement too.

Having “weathered the pandemic really well”, the manufacturer has a five-year £100m investment plan in full swing to help increase production capacity and improve staff wellbeing facilities. Turnover is expected to surpass £300m by next year.


Finalist: 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.


Finalist: 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.