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Nine firms from the North West amongst 100 fastest growing companies in the UK, reveals Growth Index 2023, published today

Growth Index Regional Split 2023
  • Manchester firm comes top out of the nine companies from North West to make it onto the list naming the UK’s 100 fastest growing firms
  • Age no barrier – Half the CEOs of the 100 Fastest Growing UK companies are over 50
  • Andy Higginson, chair of JD Sports and advisory chair of Growth Index, impressed with display of “innovative force for good” across the spread of sectors.

Nine companies from the North West have grabbed a place in the Growth Index 2023, the annual ranking of the 100 fastest-growing companies in the UK, published today (25 April 2023).

Cardinal Maritime, the Manchester-based construction group, will certainly be celebrating, having been revealed as the fastest growing company in the region, coming in at No.19 in the national table with a compound annual growth rate of 107 per cent.

Now in its second year, Growth Index is the definitive independent league table of the UK companies with the fastest growing sales, created to celebrate the companies that have supercharged growth and the leaders that have inspired and driven it. Companies are ranked by compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in sales over their last two financial accounting years (Index 2023 includes filings up to February 2023). The ranking shines a spotlight on the most successful sectors and companies in the UK, championing good growth and the equitable democratisation of business opportunity in the UK.

The full list of the nine companies from the North West whose phenomenal growth has bagged them a place in the UK’s Growth Index 2023 are:

  • (No. 19) Cardinal Maritime, a container transport company from Manchester, with a growth of 107 per cent
  • (No. 35) REDX Pharma, a biotech company from Macclesfield, with a growth of 81 per cent
  • (No. 36) SES, a retail security solutions company from Southport, with a growth of 81 per cent
  • (No. 37) Sosandar, an online clothing retailer from Wilmslow, with a growth of 80 per cent
  • (No. 40) Matillion, a computer software company from Manchester, with a growth of 79 per cent
  • (No. 73) BB Catering Supplies, a wholesale catering supplier, with a growth of 61 per cent
  • (No. 83) Mast Group, a manufacturer and supplier of diagnostic products for clinical, industrial, and veterinary testing, with a growth of 55 per cent
  • (No. 94) Kammac, a third-party logistics provider with 1.9m sq ft of warehousing facilities, with a growth of 52 per cent
  • (No. 98) Joloda Hydraroll, manufacturers of loading and unloading solutions for the logistics industry, with a growth of 52 per cent.

Growth Index 2023 Nationally

Swansea-based, luxury vodka brand, Au Vodka, recognised by its iconic, towering gold bottles scooped the number one slot as the UK’s fastest growing company, with dazzling, exponential growth of 413 per cent.

The brands to beat

As runners up to the golden premium vodka, the rest of Top 10 fastest growing 100 brands seemingly shows that as well as alcohol, the UK also found solace, emerging from the throes of pandemic restrictions and pre-economic squeeze, in outdoor dining, outdoor leisure activities and gaming.

  • (No.2) The Wave Group Ltd., an inland surfing destination in Bristol, represents the Leisure and Hospitality sector strongly, coming in second place with Olympic growth of 323 per cent
  • (No.3) Ooni, the world’s creator and leader of the home pizza oven market, based in Edinburgh, takes bronze with growth of 289 per cent, as a result of an increase in outdoor entertaining and people wanting to make great pizza at home
  • (No.9) Tripledot Studios Ltd. Developers and publishers of mobile games, scoots in at number nine to make the British Arts & Media sector happy with pixel-pleasing growth of 193 per cent.

Sector successes

Au Vodka’s top spot appropriately reflects that Retail is revealed by Growth Index 2023 as the fastest growing business sector in the UK. The retail brands in the 2023 Top 100 logged cumulative sales of £2,227m – whereas the Retail businesses in the Top 100 last year achieved just £1,874m. Indeed, this year’s Top 100 features 26 retail businesses (only 16 in 2022) with 18 new retail sector entrants, showing the vastly improved strength of the sector compared to last year’s Index.

Following hot on Au Vodka’s heels, the rest of the Top Five retail companies in the Index are:

  • At number 3, the previously mentioned, Ooni (pizza oven manufacturers from wood-fired to gas-powered), with a CAGR of 289 per cent
  • At number 15, Lounge Underwear (an online lingerie retailer), with a CAGR of 113 per cent
  • At number 18, Wolf & Badger (a global curated marketplace for independent designer brands), with a CAGR of 108 per cent
  • At number 25, Gousto (a recipe box subscription service with easy recipes and precisely measured ingredients), with a CAGR or 95 per cent.

The second-best represented sector in the 2023 Growth Index 100 is Tech with 15 companies, Health companies take 11 spots, Fintech has seven and companies in the Utilities, Energy and Recycling sector grabs six places. All these gave up ground, compared with last year, to the growing might of the retail sector – perhaps somewhat unexpected given the prevailing economic climate.

Last year’s Growth Index didn’t include a single company from the hospitality, leisure and travel industries, some of the hardest hit throughout the pandemic, thanks to lockdown measure, but this year there are 5, which shows the strength of the sector’s recovery, including The Wave Group Ltd. at no. 2.

Andy Higginson, advisory chair, Growth Index, chair of JD Sports and former chair of Morrisons, said:

“The inaugural Growth Index 2022 showcased 100 exceptional companies. The 2023 cohort is equally impressive with a small number returning to the list, leisure and hospitality debuting and retail thriving. GX companies are doing remarkable, innovative things and many of them are consciously becoming a force for good. I’m glad to be involved in this effort to celebrate and champion their much-needed contribution to our economy and society.”

No signs of ‘Levelling Up’ – The effects of PE & VC funding on London, Tech and democratisation 

London and the South still loom disproportionately large over Growth Index 2023, with 56 of the 100 fastest growing companies in the capital or its surrounding regions. The East Midlands, once a powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution, has only four. The North East and Northern Ireland have none.

Commenting on these results, Orlando Martins, founder of Growth Index and ORESA said: “If we’re going to level up, we can’t run on only one growth engine: we need all nations and regions firing. The fact that this year’s Growth Index top three are from Wales, the South West and Scotland shows that the ambition exists. We now need to create the growth conditions to match.”

Reduced Tech investment in the Capital – For 2023 the capital itself is loosening its grip a little with London this year now having 32 companies in the Top 100, down from 47 However, rather than demonstrating the emergence of Levelling Up, the likely reason for this is London’s poorer year for tech and fintech, two of its flagship sectors.

According to Growth Index, this is something likely attributable to the sharp reduction in private equity and venture capital funding to the tech sector. Large tech and fintech firms, which had previously attracted massive late-stage funding, have fallen out of Growth Index 100 in 2023.

Less funding to go around but to what effect? – Though there has only been a slight drop in the number of the Top 100 fastest growing companies that received venture capital or private equity funding this year – from 47 to 41 – the total amount raised plummeted from $13.1bn in last year’s Index to just $4.6bn.

Growth Index 2023 shows this shouldn’t raise undue concern, however, as half the hyper-growth companies in the Top 100 have earned their place without any form or equity funding, public or private.

Democratisation in the doldrums – Of concern, Growth Index 2023 does show companies led by women have fared poorly when it comes to the scale of VC/PE funding secured in comparison to those with male CEOs.  Seven of the 12 companies in the GX with women at the helm, secured funding, but of just $59.72m, on average. Whereas the 35 companies with a man running the show that bagged funding (of the 88 in the GX) scooped an average $159.2m – more than double. 

Additionally, three-quarters of funded entrepreneurs come from higher socio-economic backgrounds and only 1 per cent of founders in receipt of seed funding are black.

Over 50, and fabulous enough to keep the economy afloat?

The government’s plans to entice the over-50s back to work amid fears the loss of early retirees’ skills and experience is hampering Britain’s economic recovery appear to be validated. Growth Index 2023 indicates hard work, fresh thinking and ambition don’t have an expiration date. Half of the companies in the Top 100 have CEOs over 50 years old (50 per cent).

Indeed, almost all the 2023 Growth Index leaders are in their 40s or 50s, having accrued substantial experience.  While winners – AU Vodka founders Charlie Morgan and Jackson Quinn – are also the youngest on the list, there are more Growth Index 2023 leaders in their 70s than in their 20s.

Fifty-four-year-old, Marcia Kilgore, serial entrepreneur behind Bliss Spa, Soap & Glory and FitFlop, and CEO of the premium beauty company, Beauty Pie, which is sitting pretty at no. 39 in the Index, certainly doesn’t see age as a barrier. “My ambition is for Beauty Pie to be the most loved and trusted beauty brand in the world, no limits. I’m like Al Pacino [in Scent of a Woman], I’m just getting warmed up.” she said.

B Corps gain ground – Purpose and growth perfectly paired

Growth Index not only ranks financial achievements, but also analyses the purpose, leadership, creativity, and strategies behind them. That growth should be about more than just making a big number bigger, that it can and should power positive impact for the planet and its people – is revealed as close to the hearts of many Growth Index 2023leaders. Five out of the Top 100 are Certified B Corps, a rate 58 times higher than among the general business population, seemingly proving purpose can and often does go hand in hand with success.

Orlando Martins added: “The leaders of these companies that experienced rapid growth between 2019 and 2023 have faced unprecedented challenges due to the aftermath of Covid and Brexit, resulting in highly unusual business conditions. In the past year, they have also had to contend with four major obstacles: inflation, interest rates, the threat of a recession, and low international trade figures, all of which have slowed decision-making.

“However, despite these challenges, high employment rates and resilient consumers have given rise to a new era of growth and equity, with business leaders, investors, and the public increasingly focused on building a sustainable and beneficial UK economy in every region, including North West. This is great news for the incredible visionaries and companies that appear on our list.”

Read the full Growth Index 2023 report here.

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