The company – based in Yorkshire and the maker of Nestlé ice cream brands – achieved sales of £605.5M at the end of its last financial year (December 2013). It gained fifth place overall in the rankings, up from 12th last year.
Well-known plant baker Warburtons was the next biggest, with sales of £562.1M to September 2013, powering its way up from 19th to ninth spot.
It was closely followed in the league table by Hillesden Investments, the parent company of poultry processor Faccenda, which boasted 14th place with sales of £536.2M in the year to April 2013.
Next on the list came salad and vegetable supplier G’s, based in Ely, Cambridgeshire, which generated £380.2M in sales to May 2013.
Burton’s Biscuit Company, which has its headquarters in St Albans, Hertfordshire, took fifth place, with sales of £336M to December last year.
Including foodservice firms and distributors, 40 food and drink companies earned a place in the prestigious rankings.
Combined sales of £10.5bn
They raked in combined sales of £10.5bn, a year-on-year increase of 13%, and combined profits of £490M, up 20% year-on-year. The companies also employed a total of 80,477 people.
“It's fantastic to see privately owned mid-sized food and drink businesses making such a positive contribution to the UK economy, several which we have helped on their journey,” said Trefor Griffith, head of food and beverage at Grant Thornton UK.
“These mid-sized businesses play an integral part in driving the UK’s strengthening recovery. Many are renowned for their innovation and perform strongly in international markets as well as on their home turf. Despite the recent challenging trading conditions, it’s encouraging to see these businesses prosper and thrive.”
The Top Track 100, published by the Sunday Times in June, revealed foodservice distributor Brakes to be the biggest private food firm, with sales of £3bn.