Food and drink

You’ve got to hand it to Tony Laurenson. He’s back in our Hot 100 for the second year running with Global Infusion Group (21st), the international catering firm he founded in 1991. The company has been busy over the past year, dishing up tasty fare for the likes of Amy Winehouse, Ian Brown and Take That while they complete their gruelling worldwide tours.

The firm turned over £6.9m last year, making £281,000 profit, but growth is set to slow in 2008 as Laurenson concentrates on his US operation, Eat to the Beat, and opens further offices in the Middle and Far East. Full-time staff numbers have doubled to 32, but up to 400 contractors are working on events at any time.

Laurenson’s highlight this year was winning Total Production magazine’s Favourite Caterer award for the fifth time in a row, much to the chagrin of his competitors. “We’re the only company that’s won more than three times,” he says. “We’re out to be shot down now!”

But the MD’s not fazed. His company has toured with rock star Marilyn Manson, Reverend of the “Church of Satan”. Surprisingly, Manson did not include bat’s blood and raw entrails in his rider. “He likes plain American food,” says Laurenson.

If hot dogs are his preference, then Laurenson should get on the blower to J&J Tranfield (59th), one of the country’s biggest producers of meat products. It makes more sausages than any other company in the UK and proudly boasts the world record for the biggest banger, measuring more than 35 miles long.

By launching new product lines and acquiring competitors, the company has grown at a rate of 79 per cent over the past four years. Last reported turnover was £110m, more than double the year before.

Moving from bangers to booze, The Parched Parrot (41st) is another Hot 100 veteran, featuring on our list for the second consecutive year, with sales soaring to a cork-popping £88m.

The Dartford-based drinks company supplies wholesalers and cash-and-carries with discounted branded beverages, such as Jack Daniels, Laurent Perrier and Smirnoff. Buying in bulk allows The Parched Parrot to negotiate competitive price deals with beverage producers. This way, it’s able to offer customers more poison for their pound.

A nose for wine and an appreciation for a fine bouquet inspired accidental entrepreneur Stuart Vass to start up specialist wine importer York Wines (52nd). What started out as a small business venture/hobby has turned into big business, with sales hitting an intoxicating £67.7m last year.

Wine is purchased directly from the vineyard to keep costs down and every vintage is tasted by York staff before it’s bought. The company sells to private individuals as well as wholesalers through its website and via its shop in the sleepy Yorkshire village of Sheriff Hutton.

But don’t be fooled by the business’s quaint image: it’s been growing at a rate of 86 per cent over the past four years.

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