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Tate & Lyle CEO to be voice of UK's food sector

By Anthony Fletcher , 26-Sep-2006

Tate & Lyle chief executive Iain Ferguson's appointment as president of the UK's Food and Drink Federation (FDF) comes at a critical time for the industry.

Ferguson, whose term of office will start on 1st January 2007, faces a number of key questions that the food industry must find answers for.

''I am proud to have been chosen by the members of the Food and Drink Federation to represent their interests and to continue the good work of my predecessor as President, Gavin Neath," said Ferguson.

 

"I look forward to working with the FDF team and other stakeholders in the food chain as we address the challenges and opportunities which face our industry."

 

Ferguson faces a number of challenges in his new role at the FDF, which acts as the voice of the UK's food and drink sector. The industry is, after all, one of the largest manufacturing sectors in the UK, with gross output of £70bn or some 15 per cent of the total manufacturing sector.

 

The sector employs some 500,000 people at present, and total exports in 2005 for food and drink amounted to £9.9bn, of which 64 per cent went to EU members.

 

In addition, food has become highly political, and food issues have become front page news. Everyone now knows about the obesity crisis, and the industry has increasingly found itself in the firing line.

 

The FDF has had to fight to make its point of view heard among the various pressure groups and opinion formers. Julian Hunt, the FDF's communications director, said recently that "one of the great things about our industry is that we strive to give consumers genuine choice, whether it is a better for you version or a completely reformulated standard product".

 

In addition, the federation has also had to counter growing concern that the food industry is not adequately reducing the salt content in certain products. The FDF has insisted that the industry is on target to helping the Food Standards Agency (FSA) meet its target of reducing salt intake to an average 6g of salt a day for those aged 11 and over by 2010.

 

Ferguson joined Tate & Lyle as chief executive in May 2003. He is also active in a number of key industry groups, the British Nutrition Foundation and is past president of the Institute of Grocery Distribution.

 

Prior to his role at Tate & Lyle, Ferguson worked for Unilever. He joined the company in 1977 as a trainee following graduation from St Andrews University.

 

In 1988 he became chairman of plant breeding international and in 1992 his role expanded to include chairmanship of the Unilever Plantation Group. He moved to be chairman of Birds Eye Walls in 1995 and then senior vice president corporate development for Unilever in April 2001.

 

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