Watson joined the group in 2008, when he looked after the Jacksons and Aunt Bessie’s brands, before becoming group chief operating officer in 2018. Prior to joining the group, Watson worked for Baxters Food Group and JP Morgan.
Commenting on Watson’s appointment, WJFG chairman Nicholas Oughtred said: “I’m delighted to announce that the board has chosen James Watson as our new chief executive. James has proven himself as an inspirational leader, building strong teams and delivering great results.”
Leaving the company after 14 years
Watson’s appointment followed the current chief executive Norman Soutar’s decision to step down from the role after 14 years with the company.
Since Soutar joined the company in 2006, revenues for the business’s portfolio grew from £100m to more than £320m in 2017. During his time with the company, he also oversaw a number of disposals and acquisitions – this included the sale of frozen food brand Aunt Bessie’s for £210m and the purchase of Belazu and Wellocks.
Oughtred added: “I am grateful to Norman for everything he has done for the family and the business over the past 14 years, for his commitment to helping us grow, his long-term vision and his determination in good times and tough times.”
Soutar is stepping down as part of a long-term succession plan and will remain on the group’s board until May 2020 to ensure a smooth transition.
The promotion of Watson as WJFG’s new chief executive is the latest in a number of people on the move within the food and drink industry.
Associated British Foods’ British Sugar has announced the appointment of Peter Watson as its new agriculture director.
Meanwhile, Fox’s Biscuits boss David Cox has replaced John Power as chief executive of branded and own-label meal and snack supplier Symington’s.