Winner: Burns the Bread

Glastonbury, Somerset

This 26-year-old business operates three shops in and around Glastonbury and serves a few wholesale clients. During the winter, Burns runs a weekly showcase programme. "I think it’s a unique way of promoting ourselves; it demonstrates our products to groups like the WI, Brownies and the Rotary Club," says partner Terri Petherbridge. "They spend an evening here, sampling products, trying their hand at making pastry and touring the bakery."

The judges described this as a well thought-out, long-term project, which was all about the customer. They added that there was no financial gain involved, just a chance for customers to learn more about the bakery.

"We also do a lot in the community to support our customers donating products to help raise money for the local hospice. I think it’s really important to be part of the community," adds Petherbridge.

Finalist: Allied Bakeries

Maidenhead, Berkshire

Allied is a national plant manufacturer and distributor of brands such as Kingsmill, Sunblest and Burgen, as well as producing own-label products for retail multiples. It employs over 4,000 staff and boasts an annual turnover of around £420m.

"Customer service is part of our corporate ethos," says logistics director Paul Longley, "and that focus means we can achieve the highest possible levels of fulfilment."

Allied achieved top place in the order fill category of the Advantage survey last year, scoring 99.5%. "Basically this means that for every 1,000 loaves we send out, only five will not meet the delivery criteria." Longley says his team are the reason for this strong performance, citing their routine three-times-a-week conference calls to 19 delivery sites as just one example of their dedication.

Finalist: Nicholas & Harris

Salisbury, Wiltshire

Nicholas & Harris (N&H) supplies speciality breads, rolls and buns to most of the major multiples and boasts a turnover of around £15m. The 170-year-old company supplies Sainsbury’s with a range of speciality organic products, including multiseed batch loaves, muffins and hot cross buns. As part of its growing policy of using British ingredients, Sainsbury’s turned to N&H to source sufficient organic flour for its bread.

"Together with Shipton Mill we gathered enough quality grain to meet demand. It was only about 400 tonnes, but we only knew we’d done it at the last minute," says managing director Simon Staddon. "This was a simple problem and a simple solution: I think it shows that good customer service doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming, and it can really deepen a working relationship."