Winner: Rich Products

Fareham, Hampshire

Manufacturer of sweet goods such as cookies, muffins and cupcakes, Rich is part of a US-owned global company; the UK arm has a turnover of approximately £30m and employs 250 staff.

The company was recently charged with the globalisation of Starbucks’ muffins: the challenge was to standardise 30 products across the US, eight European countries and the UK over an eight-month period and to launch them all on the same day.

"A standard recipe would not work across all areas," explains marketing manager Gail Lindsay, "as we had to consider local legislation, ingredients and palates. But we developed three variants that delivered visual standardisation while accommodating the other considerations."

The judges were impressed with Rich’s strong collaborative client relationship, shown by the speed with which it redeveloped its chocolate muffin and other products to merit consumer approval.

Finalist: BakeMark UK

Wirral, Liverpool

BakeMark UK produces bread ingredients, cookies, icings and toppings for all sectors of the industry from plant to ISB. Its annual turnover is around £140m.

For example, the firm was recognised for developing a "true partnership" with retailers, says John Lindsay, country manager/business unit director. "We have a dedicated account team, which has worked with Sainsbury’s to develop 13 new products and grow the business by 20% in the past year."

The biggest growth area for the two firms has been cookies, which have seen the introduction of improved-quality, indulgent Taste the Difference and Nestlé lines. Lemon meringue and double chocolate doughnuts also sell well.

Lindsay says this collaboration is strengthened by BakeMark’s bespoke research, giving Sainsbury’s a true understanding of its customers’ behaviour.

Finalist: Harvies

Mold, Flintshire

Harvies MD Carol Harvie says she is "besotted by food" and her handmade baked goods, including steak & kidney pies, steak Wellington and a range of quiches, reflect this. "Everything is produced from scratch and the provenance of our ingredients is important," she says.

Harrods, to which Harvies supplies a range of pies, was one of the firm’s first major accounts, secured after eight months of producing pies for farmers’ markets. Harvie says it works hard with the store to update the range and maximise sales. Its individual pies were developed to service Harrods’ lunchtime trade it sells up to 800 a week along with a labelling system under the cardboard tray to help cut packaging.

"We’re dedicated to producing beautiful food; it’s lovely when I hear consumers have enjoyed something we’ve made," says Harvie.