Food company chief executives, speaking at the IGD Convention in London, agreed that keeping business strategies simple is important during a challenging economy.

Conference host Michael Buerk coaxed the secrets to success from Ranjit Singh Boparan of 2 Sisters Food Group, Gavin Darby of Premier Foods and Ronald Kers of Müller UK & Ireland.

2 Sisters has grown from eight sites to 50 in the last five years, but Singh Boparan said times were still tough. “It is success, but it is challenging,” he told delegates at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge conference in London. “It is about adapting to outside things you can’t control and what you can do when running a small business is different to a big business.”

Darby claimed Premier Foods was “the classic zombie company”, run by the banks, and expressed a need to continue to grow the business. “We stick to clarity of strategy,” he said. “Determine your strategy and stick to it.” Darby also divulged that Premier Foods has put a lot of work into its internal communications, with positive results, and he personally visits a factory every two weeks, on average, to stay in touch.

Singh Boparan said simplicity was key. “You might be a big business, but behave like a small one,” he advised, while Kers placed leadership at the forefront of a successful company.

“There is a time-scale for bigger and better,” added the 2 Sisters chief executive. “Make it bigger – then make it better before you go bigger again. Sometimes you have to say no to opportunities.”

All agreed that flexibility, efficiency and the ability to adapt to change were vital for a successful company with longevity, while Darby said the emphasis on recruitment at Premier Foods is one entrepreneurial mindset for driving change.