Unifine Food & Bake Ingredients (UK)
Unifine is an international manufacturer of value-added ingredients for the baking and food industries the essentials to create patisserie, sweet pasty and cake products. In July, the parent company was purchased by Dawn Foods, bringing "better offerings for customers" says managing director Simon Solway. In the UK, Unifine employs 19 people, internationally around 550.
"We do believe we should give something back to the industry. I hope people see us as a company that goes out of its way to support customers," says Solway.
The judges certainly thought so, saying that Unifine was strongly focused on serving its customers, both in terms of innovative product development, and particularly in its management style. "We want people to believe we have time for them, that what they need really matters to us," he explains. "Our staff are really good at that."
Well-known for its high-grade Belgian chocolate fillings and toppings, as well as its Fruibel fruit ingredients, the judges described Unifine as "constantly developing new, high quality solutions for customers". Unifine also demonstrated "great community interaction", particularly in terms of its support for students. "We have customer demonstration facilities here, which are also used for training days for our sponsored students," says Solway.
Shoreham by Sea
Higgidy owner and development director Camilla Stephens set up the firm in 2003, producing handmade, high-quality savoury pies. Its first products went into Sainsbury’s in 2007 and the relationship has grown from there.
"We’re good on innovation," says Stephens, "but Sainsbury’s has supported us along the way and we’ve grown the sector together." She adds that theirs is a mutually beneficial relationship, with the supplier suggesting new products, such as its deli counter savoury tartlets and deep-filled Quiche Lorraine to the multiple. Higgidy now supplies around 14 branded lines and 33 own-label products to Sainsbury’s. "We’re prepared to invest heavily to serve a customer," adds Stephens. "We had to change production routines to meet supply schedules."
The company’s annual turnover is around £11m. "Everything is handmade, using fresh, authentic ingredients," says Stephens. "And we’re constantly innovating we started off with things like beef, stilton & mash, but we’re now increasing our vegetarian lines."
The Bread Factory
Founded in the early 1990s by Gail Stephens, this is anything but a ’factory’. The business produces artisan breads, pastries and cakes for a clientele split roughly 50:50, wholesale and retail.
The Bread Factory is well known for its sourdough breads, produced from a 20-year-old levain, and using ingredients such as dark French flour. Signature products include a mixed olive stick, and a potato & rosemary bread.
Over the past seven years, the firm has seen year-on-year growth of around 20-25%, partly, believes trading director Dean Arbel, because the demand for artisanal bread has increased, but also because of dedication to customer service. "We work with clients to develop products," says Arbel. "One chef even gives us a bread ’wish list’ to suit changing menus! We’re aware of the differing needs of, say, a restaurant as opposed to an hotel and we monitor product quality assiduously. We really put the customer at the heart of everything we do."