Halewood International marketing director Neill Cotton - also MD of its Willow Water business - has left the company.

Cotton and the Liverpool-based company said they had parted by mutual consent as he sought to pursue interests closer to his Oxfordshire home. A spokesman for the business said Halewood wished Cotton well for the future.

Halewood, which was rocked by the sudden death of co-founder John Halewood last October, produces brands including Crabbie’s and Lambrini. His widow Judy has become chairwoman of the business.

Cotton joined the company in January 2011, having previously held roles including MD of Highland & Islands Breweries, formed when the Atlas Brewery he founded in 2001 acquired the Orkney Brewery. He has also been MD of Silver Spring Soft Drinks.

Cotton said his achievements at Halewood included arranging Crabbie’s sponsorship of ITV’s 2011 Christmas programming, and identifying and managing its acquisition of Willow Water last year.

“John had been very keen to diversify into soft drinks and water and Willow is a great business,” he said.

Describing John Halewood as a great entrepreneur who had “left some big shoes to fill”, Cotton added: “All of the noise from the Halewood family is that it will be business as usual as much as possible for the company.”

Cotton is now hoping to join an entrepreneurial business but did not rule out starting his own venture. “I love the food and drink business - particularly the dynamism of the brands and the spirit of innovation in the industry.”

Cotton’s responsibilities at Halewood have been taken on by sales director Allan Dickson, whose role is being expanded to sales and marketing director.