Mission: To create a remarkable food business that’s a force for good in society. Vision: To be undeniably the best maker of ready meals and frozen food there has ever been.
COOK’S BIG DEFROST festival was a chance for the 794-strong workforce to chill out at the frozen-food producer’s headquarters in Sittingbourne, Kent, where its party food and upmarket ready meals are prepared. They partied and enjoyed dance, yoga and dream-management workshops run by colleagues, and slept in bell tents.
Co-founders Edward Perry — who used to sell frozen cakes for his parents’ bakery — and chef Dale Penfold started this business in 1997, having identified a gap in the market for homemade-style food for the freezer. COOK has grown into an operation that reported pre-tax profits of £4.1m on revenues of £57m last year, without doing business with the big supermarkets.
The winner of our special award for Discovering Potential, the company is defined in part by its desire to make a positive social impact. It offers coaching to prisoners and jobs for them upon release, has recruited five workers via Caring Hands, a homeless shelter it supports with food donations, and wants 3% of the workforce to come from disadvantaged groups in the community. Staff who receive five paid days a year to volunteer believe the enterprise has a strong social conscience (an 84% positive score) and is not driven solely by profit concerns (75%).
The company pays the living wage, which is higher than the statutory minimum wage, and 5% of profits are shared, based on individual salaries. People say chief executive Perry runs the operation on sound moral principles (86%, ranked 10th on this question).
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