Spain. Rank: 21. Sales: ¬200.3 million

Europastry has its fingers in many pies -- and they're all frozen. Spain's leader in chilled dough, pastries, and breads has risen from a handful of employees at its start in 1989 to 2,000 today. That's thanks to a pinch of yeast and a recent explosion in the popularity of partially baked frozen bread, a technique founder Pere Gallés introduced in Spain in the mid-1980s.

Today, Gallés, 72, heads a company that generated €200 million in sales and €2.6 million in net profits in 2003, up from just €0.2 million in 2001. In 2002, the company ensured pole position in the sector by buying its main Spanish rival, Frida Alimentaria.

Europastry supplies a host of bread retailers and owns the bakery chain El Moli Vell. The bulk of its revenues come from Spain, where it is a preferred supplier to Starbucks. But Gallés is looking to boost international sales, which now account for a slim 15%. "Theirs is a highly fragmented sector, but they are already way ahead," says Cristobal Paredes, who heads ING's acquisition finance group in Madrid.

The Gallés family owns 58% of the business and doesn't plan to take it public anytime soon. Son Jordi, 32, is chief financial officer and head of marketing and sales. But Pere Gallés is always on the lookout for acquisition opportunities and new ideas. "Innova tion is essential to meeting international competitors head on," he says. His latest creations are frozen pastries that are ready to eat after a brief defrosting. Goodies like these should help ensure Europastry's long shelf life.

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