Fred Barnes, chief executive of 3663 First for Foodservice, is remarkably upbeat, given that 3663 lost a highly coveted MOD contract to DBC Foodservice earlier this month.

3663 is fifth in our Big 30 rankings with sales of £1.3bn and year-on-year growth of 8.5%. "Of course, we'd rather not have lost the MOD contract," says Barnes. "But we have won a lot of other business in the past 12 months. We expect to report turnover in excess of £1.4bn for the year to June and to continue our trend of high single-digit turnover growth in the future."

Sustainability remains high on the agenda, taking in sub-issues such as environmental concerns, food miles, local sourcing and fresh healthy foods. Barnes says 3663 has rolled out local sourcing initiatives in four regions and revamped its ranges to meet consumer demand for healthy food. "We can't pretend this is 90% of what we do right now, but we have to respond," he says. "We have made a significant start and will continue."

Elsewhere, the company has renewed or relocated five depots at a cost of about £20m. The programme will continue until all 42 depots have been renovated. 3663 has extended its offer in fresh meat, fresh produce, spirits and non food consumables. Its Barton Meat Company subsidiary opened a £5.5m caterers' butchery in Gorton, Lancashire, earlier this month, the largest such facility in the UK.

Barnes believes steady improvement is critical as customers continue to push for a wider range of services and products from a single point of contact. It is precisely because 3663 has maintained its focus on the customer that it has been able to grow sales in a relatively flat period for the sector.

Barnes says 3663's ownership situation has been positive for the company, which is owned by South African holding company Bidvest. "Bidvest is a proper PLC," he says. "It is interested in long-term growth and this has allowed us take a long-term view rather than a reactive one."