Winner: Kensey Foods

Launceston, Cornwall

Samworth Brothers subsidiary Kensey Foods makes premium chilled desserts and quiches, mainly for Tesco and Cadbury. With 800 employees and a £63m turnover, Kensey produces on a huge scale, but still maintains its ethos of quality and craftsmanship, says managing director Des Kingsley. Ingredients are sourced locally wherever possible, and everything is made from scratch.

Kingsley cites the company’s focus on training and rewarding its staff as providing the perfect environment for quality and innovation. "We’ve invested heavily in our premises and our people and that’s reflected in our products."

The judges agreed, adding that, even in this strong category, Kensey had had an exceptional year in terms of product quality and innovation, launching 20 new products, including the innovative Cadbury Hot Eating puddings, and implementing a lot of volunteer and charity work in the community.

Finalist: New Primebake

Nantwich, Cheshire

New Primebake is the UK’s largest supplier of frozen, chilled and ambient speciality breads into the major multiples. Its best-selling product is its garlic bread, but it also produces slices, flatbreads, dough balls and bites. It employs 800 staff and has a £55m turnover.

"Our original bakery always had a dedicated craft area," says Mark Jones, production director, "but as the market expanded, we saw the need to open an entire facility to service it."

Now, all handcrafted flatbreads and tear-and-share lines are produced out of the company’s new, £6m Crewe site. "We’ve freed up space for product development and given ourselves all-round greater capacity, plus the ability to promote new products," says Jones. "I believe this was a well thought-out project, which enables us to enter and service new markets."

Finalist: Greencore Cakes & Desserts Hull

Greencore manufactures Christmas, celebration and novelty cakes, as well as slab and teatime cakes, cheesecakes and hot puddings. It is predominantly a private-label business, but also produces licensed cakes and supplies own-label goods to three major multiples.

The majority of the firm’s products feature a craft element, including handpiping and modelling such as hand-modelled flowers on its Tesco’s Finest Christmas Cake. Graham Burley, site operations director, says the company’s strength lies in the breadth of its product range and its truly collaborative approach. "We have dedicated account teams for all our major clients, and we work together to build their category," she says. "And we’re never afraid to go back to basics to do the right thing for the consumer if research shows something isn’t right, we’ll rip it up and start again."