21. Abcam
Turnover: £56.8m (+55%)
Pre-tax profits: £16.3m (+105%)
Sector: Health Based: Cambridgeshire

This AIM darling, which sells a wide range of antibodies through its website to clients across the world, has benefitted from a weaker pound, with the latest interim results showing profits up 64 per cent at £11.2 million. Chief exec Jonathan Milner is well practised at collecting awards, having won two "CEO of the Year" accolades over the past 12 months, plus two more for Abcam as a company.

22. Ultimate Products
Turnover: £78.3m (+32%)
Pre-tax profits: £6.8m (+31%)
Sector: Consumer Based: Gtr Manchester

One of many British businesses benefitting from Asian growth, Ultimate Products sources goods in the Far East and imports them into the UK. It has 40 staff in its Hong Kong office and recently opened another in mainland China. ‘Our buyers spend 15 to 20 weeks a year in China and they’ve built up a good reputation with our supplier base,’ says chief operating officer Andrew Gossage, who adds that the company looks for products with a ‘point of difference’, such as cupcake makers or slow cookers. Growth in the past two years has been mainly through acquisition: Ultimate has acquired four companies in the past 15 months, all of them at various stages of distress, ‘so typically they were sold for very low multiples’.

23. The Listening Company
Turnover: £73.7m (+44%)
Pre-tax profits: £3.7m (+16%)
Sector: Business Services Based: London

The Listening Company is an outsourced call centre business that works for large corporates and government organisations. CEO Neville Upton set the company up in 1998 with the help of business angels and has since grown the company organically with some venture capital support. ‘We’re anticipating future growth due to increased government outsourcing,’ says Upton, who believes that many UK companies are seeing the benefits of bringing their call centres back to the UK where a better rapport can be built between operators and customers.

24. Andor Technology
Turnover: £33.1m (+34%)
Pre-tax profits: £3.4m (+125%)
Sector: Manufacturing Based: Northern Ireland

Spun out of Queen’s University Belfast in 1989, Andor makes scientific digital cameras and microscopes for applications ranging from life sciences to astronomy. Although growth has been steady for the past decade, it’s really taken off in the past two years, helped by the acquisitions of Swiss company Bitplane, a developer of software that analyses images from microscopes, and US-based Photonic Instruments. Andor has 16 offices worldwide, including two in China where it is seeing rapid expansion, but all manufacturing and assembly still takes place at its facility in Belfast.

25. Lo-Q
Turnover: £17.3m (+28%)
Pre-tax profits: £2.4m (+29%)
Sector: Consumer Based: Oxfordshire

Lo-Q’s most profitable product is the queuing robot, or Q-bot, a handheld device that can be rented for the day and used to reserve a time on theme park rides without having to wait in queues. ‘Last year theme park attendances fell, but the demand for our product went up, which shows that it is addictive,’ says CEO Leonard Sim. ‘If you’ve been to a theme park and stood in queues all day, you’ll say, “Well, I ain’t doing that again.”’ The products are used in 18 parks around the world and Lo-Q recently branched out with a downloadable, mobile phone version of its product.

26. Jupiter Marketing
Turnover: £34.7m (+16%)
Pre-tax profits: £1.1m (+39%)
Sector: Food Based: Shropshire

Fruit importer Jupiter Marketing has a rule that no customer should account for more than a fifth of its turnover. It serves not just the big supermarkets, but processors, wholesalers and exporters, supplying mainly grapes, but also citrus fruits and berries. ‘The main development in the last 18 months is that we’ve set up our own procurement offices around the world, so we are closer to the growers and can get better terms,’ says director Mark Tweddle.

27. BrainJuicer
Turnover: £11.8m (+27%)
Pre-tax profits: £1.7m (+21%)
Sector: Media Based: London

BrainJuicer is a market research company with a mission: to delve deep into the psyche of consumers. Says CEO John Kearon, ‘We’ve studied sociology and psychology to understand the human condition.’ Organic growth is the way forward, Kearon adds: ‘There’s no point in buying other agencies because we’d have to re-educate them.’

28. Maximuscle
Turnover: £33.2m (+28%)
Pre-tax profits: £7.4m (+10%)
Sector: Consumer Based: Hertfordshire

The popularity of health and fitness has seen Maximuscle power ahead since it was founded by the American sounding and yet very British Zef Eisenberg 15 years ago. After moving offices at the end of 2008 and increasing staff numbers from 55 to 75, Maximuscle is now giving its brand a rigorous workout with different packaging and some new products which target the growing female market.

29. Global Personals
Turnover: £14.2m (+14%)
Pre-tax profits: £612,000 (+48%)
Sector: IT Based: Berkshire

The company may have lost its way slightly through too much diversification, but CEO Ross Williams is confident the dating website specialist has got back on track by ‘sticking to the basics’. That means partnerships and white label deals which should see Global Personals take a larger share of a market that’s worth £100 million a year.

30. Airclaims
Turnover: £16.4m (+8%)
Pre-tax profits: £3.3m (+45%)
Sector: Business services Based: London

When an aeroplane gets damaged, private equity-backed Airclaims acts on behalf of insurance companies to manage the claim. It also helps airlines and leasing companies look after their aircraft. Organic growth has been strong, with offices opened in emerging markets including India and Brazil.

31. London FoodService
Turnover: £4.1m (+63%)
Pre-tax profits: £124,000 (+9%)
Sector: Food Based: London

London FoodService distributes ethnic and halal foods to the fast food sector including its own franchise restaurant chain, Roosters Piri Piri. MD Khalid Mirza describes Roosters as an express version of Nando’s. It has 12 branches across the South East, a number Mirza plans to double in the coming year.

32. Health Management
Turnover: £17.6m (+45%)
Pre-tax profits: £2.5m (+45%)
Sector: Health Based: East Sussex

MD Andrew Noble says that the key to recent growth for this occupational healthcare specialist has been retaining clients and staff. ‘The great hidden cost of business is client and staff turnover, and we retain around
99 per cent of our clients,’ Noble states.

33. Carnell Support
Turnover: £30.6m (+40%)
Pre-tax profits: £3.8m (+43%)
Sector: Support services Based: Staffs.

Backed by the Baronsmead VCTs in 2008, Carnell Support has seen several consecutive years of strong growth. The company helps to maintain the UK’s road infrastructure, providing specialist support services to clients including Balfour Beatty, Carillion and Amey.

34. ControlCircle
Turnover: £9.1m (+36%)
Pre-tax profits: £159,000 (+55%)
Sector: IT Based: London

Scottish Equity Partners has backed ControlCircle to the tune of £6 million and chief executive Damian Milkins is already setting up offices in the US, Europe and Asia. His scheme is to build a titan in the highly competitive IT support sector.

35. Radley Retail
Turnover: £22.7m (+54%)
Pre-tax profits: £6.4m (+40%)
Sector: Consumer Based: London

One of the most instantly recognisable British fashion brands, Radley has 17 stores across the UK and sells its handbags with the distinctive dog motif as far afield as Malaysia. Founded in 1998, the company’s sales and profits have been growing steadily since 2005, and its range now extends from women’s shoes to keyrings and umbrellas.

36. Taylor & Fraser
Turnover: £26m (+38%)
Pre-tax profits: £1.1m (+36%)
Sector: Construction Based: Scotland

Engineering services and construction company Taylor & Fraser saw a big boost in turnover and profits last year, driven by a general pick-up in its industry. Based near Glasgow, the business has been around for some 100 years and carries out most of its projects north of the border.

37. red24
Turnover: £4.3m (+29%)
Pre-tax profits: £630,000 (+17%)
Sector: Business Services Based: London

Risk management group red24 provides security consulting and staff training to companies including HSBC and Chartis. Over the past year CEO Maldwyn Worsley-Tonks says the company’s greatest growth has been in the insurance market, particularly following the its decision to increase its specialisation in the kidnap and ransom market.

38. Crayon
Turnover: £6.4m (+22%)
Pre-tax profits: £750,000 (+126%)
Sector: Media Based: London

Creative agency Crayon was started in 1999 by its three partners, who had been working for a large US agency. The company’s first big contract wins were Diageo and Camelot and it now has over 130 staff. In the past two years the company has made two acquisitions and senior partner Mark Runacus says it is on a strong growth path.

39. Stone
Turnover: £69.2m (+14%)
Pre-tax profits: £4.8m (+4%)
Sector: IT Based: Staffordshire

There aren’t many IT hardware manufacturers left in the UK. The secret of Stone’s survival, and indeed growth, has been its focus on the public sector. Government cuts may affect profits, but CEO James Bird still hopes to grow sales by taking business from competitors.

40. RC Town & Country
Turnover: £6m (+73%)
Pre-tax profits: £463,000 (+265%)
Sector: Construction Based: London

Rupert Cordle attributes the growth of his building firm to clients looking to increase the value of their homes before a sale. ‘The market around Chelsea and Knightsbridge hasn’t been affected that much by the recession, though it gets mentioned at dinner parties,’ says Cordle.

41. Moneybookers
Turnover: £39.5m (+40%)
Pre-tax profits: £10.8m (+27%)
Sector: IT Based: London

Backed by Investcorp, Moneybookers is challenging eBay’s PayPal as the first port of call for e-payments. CEO Martin Ott says the nine-year old business acquired 30 per cent of its 14 million customers in the past six months as the 'technology was refined and the regulatory maze navigated'.

42. The Stewart Company
Turnover: £13.5m (+8%)
Pre-tax profits: £2m (+18%)
Sector: Manufacturing Based: London

Set up in 1945 by an ex-RAF fighter pilot from Poland, Stewart makes plant pots, garden accessories and catering products. Formerly VC-backed, the business had debts of £13 million and was making annual losses of £1.2 million before current MD Lee Mowle led a turnaround.

43. RPM
Turnover: £15.9m (+24%)
Pre-tax profits: £780,000 (+56%)
Sector: Media Based: London

Last year this marketing company secured new contracts with E.ON and UKTV, but managing director Dom Robertson says that most of its growth came from winning more business from existing clients.

44. Ascend
Turnover: £9.5m (+9%)
Pre-tax profits: £3.3m (+45%)
Sector: IT Based: London

A spin-out from Airclaims, a fellow Rising Star (see no 32), Ascend sells its exhaustive information on thousands of aircraft to banks, hedge funds and leasing companies through a subscription model.

45. Morrey Oils
Turnover: £23.2m (+222%)
Pre-tax profits: £513,000 (+29%)
Sector: Support services Based: Cheshire

A haulage contractor to the fuel oils trade, Morrey may have seen sales jump 222 per cent to £23.2 million, but it has an aversion to publicity of any kind and its spokesperson won’t even comment on what it does.

And five to watch....

46. Ella’s Kitchen  – Baby food company run by Paul Lindley, who remortgaged his home in 2004 to set it up (yes, Ella is his daughter)

47. Arrows Group  – IT, finance and healthcare recruitment firm with pan-European coverage which doubled sales to £18.5 million last year

48. The Hummingbird Bakery  – Celebrity-endorsed cup cake maker which opened its first shop in London’s Portobello Road in 2004

49. Concrete Media  – A supplier of software for retail clients including M&S, Concrete is planning a big push into the US next year

50. Teneo  – IT support business with big corporate clients which has grown through a small acquisition a year ago and organic expansion

Methodology
The Business XL Top 50 Rising Stars is an annual ranking of UK-based fast-growing companies reporting turnover of between £2.5 million and £100 million and profits of at least £300,000. Nominated companies must have reported growth in sales and pre-tax profits in each of the two previous years, with good prospects for a continuation of that growth. Sectors not eligible for the Enterprise Investment Scheme, such as property investment and financial services, are excluded, with the exception of nursing homes. All financials used are from the most recent year-end unless otherwise stated, though efforts have been made to assess the strength of the company’s performance following its latest annual report. The Top 50 Rising Stars is an independent ranking and no company has paid to be included.

Data has been drawn from Companies House and the following sources:

FAME, a Bureau van Dijk product
FAME contains detailed information on companies in the UK and Ireland, with software for searching and analysis

The AIM Guide
A comprehensive publication with details of all public companies listed on AIM*

Growth Company Investor
An online investor resource for news and tips on small-cap public companies*

*For more information or to order copies of The AIM Guide or Growth Company Investor call Anna Mulholland on 020 7250 7055 or email anna.mulholland@vitessemedia.co.uk

Contributors: Marc Barber, Nick Britton, Chris McIntyre

Further reading:

The UK's top growth companies from 2009