The new director general of the Food & Drink Federation has been warned he needs to get the body to start “punching its weight”.

Former Diageo corporate affairs director Ian Wright will join at Easter, replacing former president Jim Moseley, who has been filling in as interim boss since the departure of Melanie Leech before Christmas.

“FDF members have been pulling their hair out at how invisible it’s been,” said one source. “It’s been desperate not to rock the boat, which has allowed the health lobby to have a field day.”

Another source added: “The health lobby has moved on from tobacco and alcohol and turned its sights on sugar, and the FDF is caught in the storm. The FDF is seen as having failed to stand up for the industry and needs to start punching its weight.”

Wright, whose CV includes working with Pillsbury, Burger King and Mars Confectionery, has previously spoken of the public’s “healthy distrust’ of business, due to incidents such as Horsegate and banking scandals.

The Grocer understands he beat several leading civil servants to get the FDF job.

Wright - at Diageo for 14 years before leaving last year, having joined from Boots in 2000 - previously had political communications roles with the SDP and the Liberal Democrats. He was repeatedly tipped to become Nick Clegg’s chief spin doctor, having been involved in controversy in 2006 when he was revealed as one of a group of businessmen bankrolling the deputy PM’s account.