Founder and chairman of Cobra beer Lord Bilimoria has joined the board of wholesale giant Booker.

Karan Bilimoria and Andrew Cripps, a former senior executive with British American Tobacco, joined Booker this week as non-executive directors.

Booker chief executive Charles Wilson hailed the appointments as testament to the strength of the company's recovery over the past couple of years. Both men would bring much-needed experience to Booker as it moved from the AIM stock exchange to the main market next year, he said. "By adding these high-class non-executives, we are building a company for the future," said Wilson.

They would also bring valuable insight as a result of Cripps' involvement in the tobacco sector and Bilimoria's work in the drinks industry, he said.

As a former non-executive director of Brake Brothers, Bilimoria is also familiar with the foodservice sector, a major aspect of Booker's business.

The appointments were made in the same week that Booker was crowned Europe's Private Company Turnaround of the Year 2007 by the Society of Turnaround Professionals. It scooped the award after growing its operating profit from £22m to £40m in 2007 and recovering from a pre-tax loss of £7.6m to record a pre-tax profit of £29.7m. It also slashed its net debt to £77m from £125m.

"When I joined Booker two years ago we had real problems with profits and falling sales," said Wilson. "This award is a recognition of how much we have achieved in a short time."

The award was based on Booker's performance before it returned to the public market in the summer following a reverse takeover of delivered wholesaler Blueheath.

Wilson said there were still a lot of improvements to be made, but he was confident the company was moving in the right direction as the focus was now on broadening the business. Last month Booker rolled out new pre-packed and price-marked fresh produce and meat ranges nationwide. The ranges were generating sales of more than £100,000 a week, with mince beef the bestselling line, said Wilson.