Diageo CEO Paul Walsh is to be appointed the first UK business ambassador from the food and drink manufacturing industry.
Rising to number two in The Grocer Power List this year, Walsh has presided over a 170% rise in Diageo’s share price since 2000, thanks largely to success in emerging markets, which now account for 40% of sales.
It is this emerging market expertise that is though to have prompted the government to invite Walsh to join the team of ambassadors promoting UK businesses overseas.
As well as growing brands such as Guinness and Johnnie Walker abroad, Walsh has overseen a number of deals that have helped accelerate Diageo’s international growth. In the first half of 2012, Diageo completed the acquisition of Chinese spirits group Sichuan Chengdu Quanxing, and signed deals to buy Brazilian cachaça brand Ypioca and Ethiopian brewer Meta Abo.
Walsh will be the only food and drink manufacturing sector representative among the 33 ambassadors, who include Boeing UK president Sir Roger Bone and former chairman of Lloyds Banking Group Sir Victor Blank.
He is likely to focus on supporting the ‘exports action plan’ published by the government and industry in January. It is a key pillar in last year’s pledge to grow the sector 20% by 2020.
In an interview with UK Trade & Investment last September, Walsh praised the “tremendous support” provided by embassies to UK companies abroad.
He also advised UK businesses looking to expand internationally to “not just stick pins in maps” but concentrate on building a strong presence in a limited number of markets.
The business ambassadors provide support in a number of ways, from lobbying for market access to leading trade events for SMEs.