Business Leader of the Year 2021: voting starts

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

John Power was boss of Symington's when he claimed this year's Business Leader of the Year Award
John Power was boss of Symington's when he claimed this year's Business Leader of the Year Award

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Voting is now live for Food Manufacture's Business Leader of the Year 2021 award.

A shortlist of six contenders has been drawn up by Food Manufacture​'s editorial team. The finalists have been chosen because they embody the spirit of excellence at the heart of the Food Manufacture​ Excellence Awards. They provide an example for others in the industry to follow and have not only contributed to the success of their own business, but to the success and reputation of the wider industry.

This year's winner was John Power, who when he claimed the title was chief executive officer of 190 year-old grocery business Symington's, which boasts brands including Naked, Twistd and Mug Shot in its portfolio. Power is now interim managing director at Valeo Foods Ireland, having been replaced at Symington's by former Fox's Biscuits boss David Cox​.

As ever, Food Manufacture​ readers determine the next winner by online nomination and you can cast your vote now by visiting the Food Manufacture ​Excellence Awards website​.

The winner will be revealed, alongside the other winners of the Food Manufacture​ Excellence Awards, which are sponsored by Dawn Foods​ and Fowler Welch​, at a special virtual ceremony on 11 February​.

The finalists are:

Sarah Arrowsmith, chief executive, UK grocery, Associated British Foods (ABF)

Arrowsmith provides oversight and guidance to the managing directors of nine independently managed businesses, including Allied Bakeries, AB World Foods, which produces the Pataks and Blue Dragon brands, and Jordans Dorset Ryvita. She joined ABF in 2002 as managing director of The Silver Spoon Company and ran other ABF businesses in the UK and Australia. She was promoted to chief executive of ABF’s UK Grocery division in 2010 and serves as chair of ‘Women in ABF’. This is a cross-divisional group of over 700 women from ABF’s global businesses with the objective of helping those involved develop their careers in the wider group.

Morten Toft Bech, founder, Meatless Farm

Entrepreneur and investor Toft Bech started Meatless Farm in Leeds in 2016 with the ambition of helping to reduce overall meat consumption. He aims to improve people’s health by promoting better eating, while supporting the environment and reducing the world’s dependency on intensive farming. Since Meatless Farm was founded, it has grown into a powerful force in plant-based foods, with products under the brand now sold in the top four UK supermarket chains. In September 2020, it announced it had raised $31m to further expand in the UK, Europe, the US and Asia. The company claims 180% like-for-like UK annual sales growth.

Lindsay Boswell, chief executive officer, Fareshare

Boswell passionately fights UK hunger and food waste. Since he joined FareShare in 2010, the number of charities receiving food from the charity has grown from 600 to over 11,000. He led the industry response to the pandemic, resulting in over 50 million meals being delivered to vulnerable communities since the initial lockdown. Previously he was chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, where he doubled income and membership and established the Fundraising Standards Board as a global leader in self-regulation. Lindsay is a member of the Mayor of London’s Food Board and a trustee of the Institute of Grocery Distribution.

Kirsty Henshaw, managing director, Kirsty’s

Kirsty Henshaw founded the Yorkshire-based Kirsty’s brand following a long search for free-from food options that her son would be able to enjoy after discovering he had several allergies. Her profile was raised after securing funding on BBC hit show Dragon’s Den in 2010. Fast forward ten years and Kirsty’s is worth £15m. The company sells an award-winning gluten- & dairy-free range of chilled ready meals, frozen pizzas and frozen desserts, which are stocked in every major UK supermarket. In July 2020, Kirsty’s announced it had invested £2M in a new allergen-free factory to help double the business’s size within three years.

Cassandra Stavrou, founder, Proper Snacks

Cassandra Stavrou is the co-founder of Proper Snacks, which claims to be the biggest independent snack company in the UK. Proper Snacks was founded ten years ago, now sells more than five million bags a month and lays claim to 20% of the UK ‘better-for-you’ market, all while remaining independent. Stavrou has become known as one of the leading voices in Europe for young female entrepreneurship and she has been awarded an MBE for services to the food industry. In addition, she sits on the Government’s Food & Drink Sector Council as the key representative for small to medium-sized enterprises.

Alex Whitehouse, chief executive officer, Premier Foods

Appointed as CEO and board member in August 2019, Whitehouse joined Premier Foods in July 2014 and became managing director of its grocery strategic business Unit in September that year. He was promoted to UK managing director in April 2017. He has more than 20 years of senior international, marketing, sales, strategy, innovation and general management experience. He spent 18 years with Reckitt Benckiser, where he held senior marketing and general management roles. Since he became Premier Foods’s CEO, the company has significantly reduced its long-standing debt burden, clinched a deal to sell its Hovis brand and reported strong sales and profit growth.

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