Fast Track 100: Covid-19 edition

4th December 2020

Our 24th annual Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 league table, published today in The Sunday Times and here on our website, ranks Britain’s 100 private companies with the fastest-growing sales – largely before Covid-19 struck.

It highlights how they have adapted to the pandemic, giving examples of innovation which has supported communities, and finds that they achieved, on average, sales growth of 73% a year over their last three years of accounts, to a combined total of £4.4bn. For detailed findings, download our research report.

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Published today, the 24th annual Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 league table ranks Britain’s private companies with the fastest-growing sales – largely before Covid-19 struck. Over their last three financial years, sales grew between 38% p.a. and 441% p.a. from a combined £1.1bn to £4.4bn, with an average growth rate of 73% p.a.

This Covid-19 edition explores how the UK’s fastest-growing private companies have adapted to the unique challenges of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns by diversifying revenue streams and identifying new opportunities.

This year’s table includes 42 retailers – a Fast Track 100 record – all of which sell online. Consumer goods represents the largest industry with 37 companies. Entrepreneurs and/or founders own majority stakes in 77 companies, while 39 have secured equity investment. There are 28 female entrepreneurs who founded or co-founded 26 companies – a record.


Top of the league

The top spot on the 2020 league table goes to Glencar Construction, whose rapid growth has been driven by building warehouses for ecommerce giants such as Ocado. It is also currently building the UK’s Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre in Oxfordshire, which aims to be capable of producing 70m Covid-19 vaccines by the summer, and saw Boris Johnson visit in September to check on progress.

Founded in 2016 by Eddie McGillycuddy and Chris Gleave – who previously worked together at Fast Track 100 alumnus McLaren Construction – sales have leapt from just £610k in 2017 to an annualised £96.5m in the year to September. This is an average growth rate of 441% a year and a record for the 24 years of the league table.


Adapting to Covid-19

Though the UK economy has been hard hit by the pandemic, many of this year’s companies are continuing to do well, with 70 companies adding staff since March, creating a total of 3,500 jobs, and nearly three quarters forecasting sales will increase in their next financial year.

In response to the pandemic, many entrepreneurs and their companies have adapted their commercial strategies and successfully pursued new opportunities.

Pictured: Susie Ma, founder and chief executive of Tropic Skincare, which she pivoted to selling online during the pandemic.

Examples include:

  • Tropic Skincare (No 49) previously sold its products via 30,000 brand ambassadors at in-person “pamper experiences”. It quickly moved to ecommerce, with profits supporting the production of 50,000 hand sanitisers for NHS key workers
  • Beavertown Brewery (No 65) lost an estimated 85% of its revenue stream when pubs closed. It expanded its retail base, began selling direct to consumers online, and in August opened a new brewery in London capable of producing 90m pints a year
  • Sigma Sports (No 95) launched a new website, opened a new warehouse and a second store, and hired 30 staff to help meet rapidly-growing demand for its bikes. It also unveiled a new clothing brand


Detailed research findings 

Detailed research findings can be found in our 28-page research report – please click to download.

Fast Track 100 companies are young, with 90 founded since 2000, and 22 set up in the last five years. Combined operating profits of the 100 companies were £437m in their latest financial year, compared to the £272m reported by the 2019 cohort. Vet practices operator VetPartners (No 20), founded by Jo Malone, achieved both the highest operating profits, at £45.2m, and highest sales, at £349m.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Group, which has supported Fast Track for all 24 years, said:

While we are living in extremely uncertain and challenging times, there is one thing I am certain of: Entrepreneurs are the dreamers, the doers, and the innovators that have the power to have a positive impact on society. There are so many inspiring examples of this on the Fast Track 100 league table showing this is just as true, if not more so, in 2020 as it ever has been.”

Over the past 24 years, the Fast Track 100 has become the definitive barometer of privately-owned growth companies in the UK and has featured many companies that have gone on to greater success. Past stars include ARM, which is set to be acquired by US giant Nvidia for £31bn from Japan’s SoftBank; and Fever-Tree, which is now worth £2.7bn, having debuted with sales of just £7m in 2011.


10 Fast Track Ones to Watch

The 10 Fast Track Ones to Watch features promising companies that did not meet the criteria of the league table, but have either achieved or are forecasting strong sales growth.

This year’s Ones to Watch include Transcend Packaging, a sustainable packaging manufacturer, which started making face visors during the pandemic and has now supplied more than 15m to the NHS. The list also features three food delivery services, including Allplants, which has dispatched over 2m vegan dishes to customers across the UK and raised £14.3m from investors including Felix Capital, which backed Deliveroo.

Previous Ones to Watch companies include reusable bottles brand Chilly’s, which went on to rank No 1 on last year’s Fast Track 100 and features at No 6 this year, as well as energy supplier OVO Energy and burger chain Five Guys.

For the full list, see the 10 Fast Track Ones to Watch page.


National conference and awards event

We look forward to welcoming the founders and directors of the Fast Track 100 companies to next year’s invitation-only conference and networking awards event, social distancing permitting.

Watch video highlights of this year’s interactive virtual event, which took place in September:

Our sponsors 

Recognising the achievements of all these companies is made possible by our sponsors: Virgin AtlanticBDODHL Express and N+1 Singer.

The Office GroupCharles Russell Speechlys and BMW are awards event sponsors.

For opportunities to connect with and build relationships with the founders and directors of Britain’s fastest-growing private companies, please visit our Sponsorship page.

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