The leading 20 companies in the UK baking industry are strenghtening their grip on the market, according to a new survey from Plimsoll Publishing.

In the last four years they have increased sales by 50%, improved profits by a massive 150% and raised staff levels by 28%, it says.

The leading 100 companies now account for 92% of the market by turnover, up from 87% four years ago, according to the report. However, within the 100, it is only the top 20 that are poised for growth.

In contrast, Plimsoll senior analyst David Pattison believes 60 firms have their work cut out to get their principal business on a firm financial footing, while 20 companies are facing financial distress where the safest option would be a period of consolidation. And that consolidation could cost up to 4,600 job losses, says Pattison.

These 80 businesses have increased sales by only 13% in the last four years. In that period profits have fallen 1% and staff numbers remained flat.

Plimsoll’s top 20 is seen as primed for further growth, with the potential to put market share well beyond current performance.