Flour and water may be essential ingredients, but it is the huge amount of passion that makes Ugo Foods Group's fresh pasta and noodle operation so special.
The company supplies fresh pasta and noodles to Waitrose, and its products are also served in the first-class and club class sections by airlines, and in leading restaurants, including Wagamama and Strada. Ugo Foods constantly strives to go the extra mile for ingredients — or 667 miles, to be precise — sourcing authentic flour from Parma in Italy. Each product undergoes 32 separate quality checks before it leaves the Borehamwood factory. Workers agree that the organisation is run on strong principles, giving an 82% positive score to this question.
Managing director Paul Ugo, whose Italian immigrant grandfather Luigi started the firm in 1929, remembers a tough start: "Being good with people got me through it," he says. "There's a belief out there that you can't be a business with a heart, but that's rubbish — and we're proof." A trained psychologist and hypnotherapist, he sees personal development as the key to a happy workforce.
Refurbishment of the Ugo site is under way, with a museum area and teaching kitchen included, so that the local community can experience the company's family culture first-hand.
"We care about what we do," says Liz Howard, technical manager, who has been with Ugo Foods Group for five years. "We actually put passion into it. We don't present anything until we are 100% happy with it."
Life tastes good for employees too. Personal achievements are celebrated — certificates line the walls, from Basic Food Hygiene awards to internal long service prizes. This supportive culture results in a string of impressive scores in the wellbeing factor of our survey — staff say their health is not suffering due to work (94%), have not had stress-related symptoms due to work in the past 12 months (96%) and do not find it difficult to concentrate due to pressure (93%), all three the best scores in our survey. Employees are naturally happy with their work/life balance, the 83% score ranking third.
The relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle is in full swing in this corner of Hertfordshire. "If you walk around, I can guarantee that most people will be smiling", says Ugo. Employees are encouraged to attend his meditation classes to help them take a step back from daily pressures.
Staff say that managers really take an interest in employees as individuals (84%) and give an 85% score when asked if their job is good for their personal growth.
If the firm feels someone has potential, they will be hired even if they don't have all the skills, and will be supported while learning. "There are people here from Ghana, Poland, the Czech Republic, Asia — there's a place for everyone," says supervisor Jay Wallace. It seems that staff who retire or leave to work elsewhere cannot resist returning to the family company. Even suppliers are drawn in — a former pasta buyer at Waitrose is now Ugo Foods' Waitrose account handler.
Enzo Gammallieri has worked for Ugo for 27 years — since he was 18 years old. Feeling he should broaden his experience, he left for another job. Less than a year later, he was back at Ugo. He is now line supervisor and hopes to stay until retirement.
Employees feel they can make a difference to the company (82%) and are excited about its future (84%). Ideas are listened to and taken seriously, and, if implemented, rewarded with vouchers or a bottle of wine. "It is the little things that really mean a lot," says Gammallieri.
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