Having battled through a seemingly never-ending series of traffic lights that comb the small town centre of St Albans, you enter the foyer of a modern building to be confronted with a mosaic of familiar images. These are the logos familiar through a lifetime in the UK; you'll know most of them and you'll almost certainly have several of them on labels covering jars, cans and bottles in your kitchen cupboards.
Proust had his madeleine cake to remind him of the past but for any Briton these are the true gustatory levers to memory and it's hard to avoid recalling ancient ads and taglines. There is Hovis ("As good today as it's always been"), Mr Kipling ("Exceedingly good cakes"), Bisto ("Aah!"), Sharwood's ("Taste of India"), Cadbury ("Everyone's a Fruit and Nut case"), Branston ("Bring out the Branston!"), Angel Delight ("Whip up a quick dessert"), Homepride (Fred in his bowler hat), Oxo (that annoying family), Smash ("For mash get Smash").
Add in Batchelors, Campbell's, Quorn, Ambrosia, Loyd Grossman, Atora, Be-Ro, Bird's, Chivers, Crosse & Blackwell, Dufrais, Frank Cooper's, Fray Bentos, Gale's, Hartley's, Haywards, McDougalls, Mother's Pride, Paxo, Robertson's, Rose's, Sarson's, Saxa and Sun-Pat... there are many others and 99 per cent of UK households bought a Premier Foods product last year. Take that, Microsoft.
The remarkable multiplicity of brands points to the mission for Premier, which has been on a shopping spree to gain supremacy in food manufacturing. Or, as the company's website puts it, there is "a plan to acquire great British brands and integrate them quickly to further contribute to our strategies based on scale".
In order to achieve this mission, Premier has had to buy and fold in a series of firms, and a part of that responsibility has fallen to Mark Vickery, the group IS and change director of the firm.
Vickery has a CV that has been baking for a long time, having been schooled for 17 years at the mother of all fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) firms, Unilever, from 1978. He became a team leader and project manager before running IT at toothpaste and cosmetics maker Elida Gibbs. His subsequent tour of duty took in New York and much of North America but also Africa, overseeing business systems for plantations that produced goods such as tea and palm oil. This posting presented some unusual challenges, such as ensuring there is power backup in the jungle.