Originally printed in the November 2023 issue of Produce Business.
London’s Grosvenor House Hotel was the epicenter of a fresh produce celebration Sept. 29, as industry giants, innovators and rising stars convened for the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) Fresh Awards 2023.
In a year marked by unprecedented challenges, this event stood as a beacon of resilience, innovation and unyielding spirit. Celebrity food writer Jay Rayner, with his signature flair, served as the evening’s emcee.
Martin Hudson, a titan in the fresh produce arena, received a standing ovation as he received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Hudson’s career spans 44 years in the fresh produce, cut flower and plant sectors. He is most recognized for his 29-year tenure at Flamingo Group. As co-founder (with Richard “Dicky” Evans) and director, in 1994, Hudson helped build a sustainable, scalable business that has evolved into the UK’s largest value-added grower and direct supplier of cut flowers, plants and premium vegetables. Today, the business serves major UK retailers as well as customers throughout Europe.
Flamingo began in 1994 as the UK marketing and distribution arm of Homegrown Kenya, a supplier of counter-seasonal fruit to UK retailers. The ambition was to manage direct customer relationships and form a vertically integrated supply chain model to facilitate exports from Kenya.
Over the next three decades, the business expanded into specialty vegetables and cut flowers for export to UK retailers. During that time, Hudson used his entrepreneurial attitude and interpersonal skills to establish enduring relationships with international producers and UK retailers, fostering an open environment of trust and transparency.
As part of Flamingo Group’s succession plan, Hudson stepped down as chief executive at the beginning of 2020, and remained a non-executive director before stepping back in March 2023 as interim group chief executive. Upon the hiring of the longer-term replacement, he has returned to a non-executive board advisory role.
Flamingo was also named the Fresh Produce Business of the Year. The award is the “winner of winner” accolade, as judges choose this overall champion from the winning businesses in the Supply Chain, Retail and Business Excellence categories.
A leader in driving environmental sustainability, Flamingo has focused on changing its growing, sourcing and transportation practices for the better. This led to the launch of a game-changing floral supplier-retailer model called “Farm Direct,” a strategy the firm is replicating globally.
The narrative of triumph was echoed in the accolades bestowed upon the industry’s young visionaries. Raviteja Burugu of Wootzano and Emma Dawes of Driscoll’s, recipients of the Rising Star and Manager of the Year awards, respectively, embodied the unwavering spirit of innovation that promises a future of unprecedented growth and sustainability.
Burugu is the lead robotics engineer at Wootzano and has guided his team to many groundbreaking achievements and awards during a relatively short time. As head of finance at Driscoll’s UK (formerly Berry Gardens), Dawes played an instrumental role in the company’s complex acquisition process. She has brought consistency and reliability to the team, establishing new processes and controls, and motivating her team with new talent and direction.
In a world where the clarion call for sustainability is louder than ever, Blue Skies, Clarifruit, and GrowUp Farms were heralded as the vanguards of environmental responsibility.
The retail giants weren’t spectators in this narrative of triumph. Aldi, Marks & Spencer, The Co-op, Asda, and Bloom & Wild, each a titan in its own right, were honored for their unwavering commitment to quality and consumer satisfaction. Retailer honors included:
Multiple Fruit and Veg Retailer of the Year: Aldi
Multiple Floral Retailer of the Year: Marks & Spencer
Convenience Retailer of the Year: The Co-op
Online Fruit and Veg Retailer of the Year: ASDA
Online Floral Retailer of the Year (New): Bloom & Wild
Other award winners included:
Best Place to Work: Blue Skies Foundation
Sustainability Excellence: Ethical Award: Blue Skies Foundation; Supply Chain Award: Clarifruit; Climate Award: GrowUp Farms
AgriTech and Innovation Excellence: Agritech Excellence Award: Sony; Innovation Excellence Award: G’s Growers
Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Supplier of the Year: Fresh Direct
Wholesale Floral Plant Supplier of the Year: The Hort House
Supermarket Floral Plant Supplier of the Year: Flamingo Horticulture
Supermarket Fruit and Vegetable Supplier of the Year: AC Goatham
Foodservice Supplier of the Year: Mark Murphy Edinburgh
UK Grower of the Year: Freshgro
International Grower of the Year: BelOrta
Business Service Provider: Smurfit Kappa
Team of the Year: MorePeople
HR Initiative of the Year: Dole UK
Best Marketing Campaign: Red Tractor