Last year the Spar retailer, which operates 201 Spar stores, was

recognised for its great service to the local community, while growing strong corporate values and a clear strategy.

Tates has certainly not rested on its laurels this year.

In the last 12 months, Tates launched its latest store format with a move into forecourt retailing with petrol giant BP. It has also recently acquired two further forecourt sites and believes forecourt retailing is an integral part of its future business strategy.

One judge says: "Tates is an innovator. Where others jump on the bandwagon, it's already there, with local supply and fresh produce at its core."

Tates was ranked fourth in The Grocer's poll of Top 50 independent retailers, with a healthy profit margin of 2.2% and sales up 4% to £216m.

Tates also remains a strong supporter of local communities and has traditionally sourced local products for many years - long before environmental concerns such as food miles and

carbon footprints moved to the forefront of shoppers' minds.

Many of its rural Welsh stores provide locally sourced eggs, meat, bread, pies, cheese, yoghurts and water, and sales can make up as much as 15% of turnover. Tates is currently developing a method to distribute local products to all its stores.

The retailer is also focusing on food-to-go and fresh produce. Food-to-go is currently available in 96 stores - sales are growing at 24% year-on-year and are estimated to top £11m this year. Fresh produce sales are up 14% year-on-year driven by organic, Fairtrade and weekend specials offering consumers promotions.