3 (2) Warburtons
: £703.6m +4.4%
Launch: 1876

It has been a year to forget for bakers. Already battling the long-term decline of sliced bread, the industry was rocked by disastrous harvests in the UK and the US, which caused the cost of milling wheat to rocket. Not only did wheat prices shoot up 40% in the summer, the quality of the crop made processing it a nightmare.

It was therefore a relief for Warburtons that its strategy of diversifying beyond sliced bread started to deliver results. It reversed a drop in sales in 2011, growing by 4.4% this year. Volumes also increased.

The star performer was sandwich thins. A er its February 2011 launch, they notched up over £10m in sales last year, aided by the roll-out of brown and seeded varieties. Crumpets, pancakes, potato cakes and muffins also sold well, says the family baker.

An £8.2m marketing campaign launched in February encouraging consumers to eat more bakery products at breakfast helped increase sales. It also helped return bread sales to growth. The launch of Half & Half Toastie, made from white and wholemeal our, in October provided another boost.

Warburtons has big ambitions for its gluten-free bread, too. Relaunching its range under the sub-brand Newburn Bakehouse in January, it has set its sights on knocking Genius off the top spot in freefrom bakery.

The baker is spending even more on marketing this year. It kicked off a £16m nine-month campaign in January with a TV-led push that will focus first on breakfast and then switch in the summer to promoting lunchtime products. The brand has also been active in social media. Last year it created a Facebook app allowing people to send slices of virtual Warburtons’ toast to friends with personalised messages.