Innocent has headhunted Philippa Brightman, special diets and health manager at Sainsbury's, to help steer the technical side of its fruit sourcing.

The 27-year-old, who was instrumental in the February relaunch of Sainsbury's 100-strong own-label range of gluten, wheat and dairy-free foods, is expected to bring in-depth nutritional knowledge and a keen commercial awareness to the £98.5m smoothie company.

"Philippa's year spent at Sainsbury's working alongside dedicated food technicians gives her an impressive level of expertise in the minutiae of ingredient detail. This knowledge will be invaluable in our aggressive plans to drive growth this year," said Rozanne Davis, team leader for fruit technology at Innocent.

At Sainsbury's, Brightman worked with a dedicated free-from food technologist, supported by a network of 90 technicians, on all aspects of the supermarket's food offering. She also established partnerships with medical consultants, entrepreneurs and dietary organisations such as Allergy UK, Coeliac UK and the Anaphylaxis Campaign.

"My focus has been to make Sainsbury's the destination of choice for people with food allergies and intolerances. Some 50% of the enquiries we receive each week under the health category are about allergens, so I've been given a real insight into how the industry can make customers' lives easier, right from the point of diagnosis," she said.

One of the biggest challenges facing Brightman's successor will be to continue the momentum of Sainsbury's free-from range as well as eliminating traces of allergens currently in its top-selling products.

"Popular foods such as potato-based chilli con carne and cottage pie unnecessarily contain wheat flour. It's small things like this that are making products off-limits to people with intolerances when they needn't be," said Brightman.

She leaves Sainsbury's this Tuesday and is scheduled to join Innocent in the first week in May. Sainsbury's has started the process of recruiting a replacement.