Bakery Amber Foods wins best firm at Barking and Dagenham business awards

A bakery that is enjoying a roaring trade at a coveted spot in Westfield Stratford was named firm of the year at last night’s Barking and Dagenham business awards.

In less than a decade, Barking-based Amber Foods has grown from supplying ethnic stores with its hand-crafted Eastern European rye breads to holding its own in Europe’s largest shopping mall.

At the prestigious annual ceremony in Barking’s Broadway Theatre, managing director Nadia Gencas described winning the top gong as “such a big thing for us”.

She added: “We are not from this country and we are trying to make people aware of our own traditions in food. This acknowledgment means a lot. We have a great team. We are like a family and they will all appreciate this very much.”

Local optician Parag Joshi, whose business Care Optics has grown to comprise a trio of stores in Barking, Dagenham and Woodford Green was named business person of the year for his work with children, the disabled and elderly at risk of inadequate eye care.

Football TV presenter Ray Stubbs hosted the evening, which was attended by dozens of business leaders and entrepreneurs from across the borough. He said: “It’s pretty clear we are in the company of some very clever and talented people.”

This year – the fifth for the awards – saw a record number of entries.

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Paul Bishop, business relationship manager at the council, explained: “It was a tough decision for our judges to reach a verdict. Once again we have seen that Barking and Dagenham has a fantastic range of businesses and that it is a great place to do business.”

Mark Kass, enterprise development manager at Barking Enterprise Centre, said this year’s awards were particularly important because of the impending Olympics.

“We are trying to make sure local people and businesses can still work closely with the London legacy corporation,” he said. “It’s all about showcasing local businesses. After the Games there’s still going to be billions of pounds of contracts up for grabs.”

He added: “We’ve had a record number of applications and that has been phenomenal, especially in the current economic climate.”

Other winners were:

Community involvement - Future M.O.L.D.S. Communities

Best new business - the Vine Respite Services

Innovation - Amber Foods

Growth business of the year - Boleyn Transport

Supporting education, training or development - Future M.O.L.D.S Communities

Green business - Glitz n Glamour Hair, Beauty & Tanning

Customer service - West & Coe

Sole Trader/Micro Business or e-business - Architectural Lead & Metalwork Ltd