Why Tesco boss is top for first time since 2011


Dave Lewis tesco

Dave Lewis ▲


Last ranked: 5

If you want to know why Dave Lewis is the most powerful person in grocery, contrast the Tesco of today with the Tesco of 2014. The differences are stark. 

Since taking charge, Lewis has faced challenges that would have overwhelmed many a CEO. He inherited not only a huge accounting scandal, but a business in freefall, a decimated senior exec team, a tired and unwieldy UK estate, monumental debts (including massive pension liabilities) and a brand reputation that had been stained and strained for years. 

Quite an inbox. But, calmly and carefully, Lewis has been putting things right. Smart hires inside and outside the business, including UK MD Matt Davies (qv) and incoming chief customer officer Alessandra Bellini, have dispelled memories of the previous regime, characterised byarrogance, failure and boardroom splits. 

“Having come bottom in the Advantage Survey two years ago, Tesco is now top”

Dismissing his predecessor’s attempts to paper over the cracks with store expensive refits (Tesco Watford), questionable bolt-ons (Giraffe, Harris & Hoole, Euphonium) and technological blind alleys (Blinkbox, Hudl) Lewis has systematically and clearsightedly addressed the fundamentals. 

His first move was to improve availability. Second, he simplified ranges and simplified promotions. Big seasonal promotions copied the discounters’ eyecatching Super Six-type deals. And Tesco Farms was another play out of the discounters’ book, taking produce from a variety of suppliers and branding it under fictional farm names at lower price points. It’s working: volumes are up for eight straight quarters, like-for-likes for four - while sales at the discounters have slowed. 

But Lewis didn’t just focus on the discounters. As others abandoned price matching schemes, Tesco’s was rebooted and, with instant cashback, has become instantly compelling. 

He’s done all this while drastically cutting the commercial team. And having come bottom in the Advantage Survey (measuring supplier approval ratings) two years ago, Tesco came top in the latest one, as he simplified negotiations and put the focus on long-term JBPs. 

Indeed whatever he does, Lewis just seems to have the knack of nailing it. Even if you take two recent examples, Marmitegate showed he is no pushover, while the acquisition of Booker is a bullish move - reminiscent of the glory years in terms of being one step ahead of the competition in propelling Tesco into a new channel - and in terms of smart hires, Charles Wilson (qv) could be the smartest. 

Lewis identified three KPIs when he joined: to improve the competitiveness of Tesco’s UK operation, repair its balance sheet, and rebuild trust.

Buying Booker will deliver further headway on the first. Lewis has divested thoughtfully but ruthlessly to improve the second. And the third? That will also take time. But two years ago it would have been unthinkable for its CEO to champion food waste redistribution - or any cause - with credibility. 



Matthew Barnes ► 

CEO, Aldi

Last ranked: 2

Matthew Barnes

Aldi has been in attack mode for years but it has recently been forced on to the defensive. Profits have been weakened by a combination of the price war and investment in infrastructure and expansion. Meanwhile, debate over its like-for-likes - specifically whether sales increases are purely down to new stores - took the sheen off what Aldi described as a record Christmas. But although sales and profits have slowed since the heady days of 2011-14, progress continues in steely fashion under Barnes. 

However you cut the figures, Aldi remains profitable and is growing sales and market share - at 6.2% it’s left Waitrose behind and this week it overtook the Co-op, according to Kantar Worldpanel. And it continues on its way to its 2022 target of 1,000 stores (it opened its 700th store this month and will open around 70 this year). 

Meanwhile ‘Aldi will not be beaten on price’ remains the mantra. Anyone trying will have to invest in price or sacrifice margin. And although price is its biggest weapon, Barnes has ensured Aldi is not solely dependent on it. Aldi’s marketing has always combined its hallmark simplicity with effectiveness - its sponsorship of Team GB is a case in point. 

While questions continue to be raised about whether Aldi is moving too far away from its operating model of simplicity, that is to ignore the progress Barnes has made since 2010 by doing exactly that - constantly evolving the Aldi UK model while remaining within those strict Aldi parameters. And it’s working.



Paul Polman ►

CEO, Unilever

Last ranked: 3

Paul Polman

Unilever is a giant multinational supplier with a market cap of £42bn - triple the size of Tesco’s these days - and a share price that has all but doubled since Dutch-born Polman took control in 2009. And presiding over a prestigious portfolio of products like Persil, Magnum, PG Tips, Hellmann’s, Domestos and Dove, Polman should be in an even more powerful position since the Groceries Code Adjudicator remedied the axis of power that had swung towards retailers for so long. 

But amid slowing growth overseas, last year’s Marmitegate spat with Dave Lewis (qv) - a former Unilever acolyte of course - was a reminder of the Anglo-Dutch multinational’s limited power in the UK. With sterling’s depreciation against its euro-denominated stock, Brexit will hit Unilever’s UK business (accounting for 5% of global sales but more in terms of profits) in the pocket. And Lewis’s thinly veiled attack on Unilever’s heavy handed approach to price negotiations, and subsequent delisting was a real shot across the bows. 

“Polman’s enthusiastic support for cause-related programmes has scored big points with millennials”

Still, Polman’s enthusiastic support for cause-related programmes has scored big points with millennials. Unilever claims over a third of consumers buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good. 

And although Polman reported a 1% sales dip in January at a global level, he also reported a 5.5% rise in profits, and announced a huge restructure aimed at making Unilever more agile to local markets to win those sales back.



Mike Coupe ▲

CEO, Sainsbury’s

Last ranked: 6

Mike Coupe

It’s been a busy year for Mike Coupe, with two big calls coming to fruition last autumn. The acquisition of Home Retail Group was completed in September, and while it’s still early days, the concerted effort Sainsbury’s took to have 30 in-store Argos concessions by Christmas led to impressive outperformance, an early vindication of his strategy. 

The installation of more concessions and click & collect points is likely to be high on Coupe’s to-do list. But he will also be working hard to get the speed of Sainsbury’s delivery service closer to that of Argos (its ability to deliver within four hours was named a key motivation for the deal). 

Wider rollout of Sainsbury’s same-day home delivery and click & collect service, currently in just 30 locations, is likely along with an extension of its one-hour bike delivery service Chop Chop.

Coupe has also staunchly batted off suggestions that Argos is an unnecessary distraction from the improvements deemed necessary to improve trading on the grocery side, and will have been pleased that a brave decision to scrap multibuys last August - to simplify pricing and reduce waste - does not appear to have hurt sales so far. Not for Sainsbury’s anyway.



David Potts ▲

CEO, Morrisons

Last ranked: 12

David Potts

Potts has flown up the Power List in 2017 and with good reason - he’s had an enormous impact on Morrisons, including its best Christmas results in seven years (a 2.9% boost in like for likes). 

His strategy has been focused on doing the basics right. Or in his own words: “We stocked more of what our customers wanted to buy, more tills were open more often, and product availability improved.” Pricing has also been more competitive of late. 

He’s also looked to future proof Morrisons - and hasn’t shelled out big bucks on Argos or Booker to do so - forging strategic alliances, notably with Amazon, including a wholesale service agreement with the online retailer to supply thousands of Morrisons ambient, fresh and frozen products, while also hosting Amazon lockers in stores.

Also on the wholesale side he’s resurrected the Safeway brand in a deal with Costcutter/Palmer & Harvey. 

He signed a new deal with Ocado that has both boosted its online capacity in the south and reset its trading terms on a more favourable basis. 

And even though he’s exited the convenience sector, a capital light partnership with the Motor Fuel Group is being trialled.



Charles Wilson ▲

CEO, Booker

Last ranked: 10

Charles Wilson

Charles Wilson hasn’t quite executed a reverse takeover into Tesco, but when an international supermarket chain with £50bn sales buys a UK-based wholesaler a tenth of its size - and calls it a merger - you know this is no common or garden acquisition. Dave Lewis will still be the boss of Tesco-Booker if the shock deal announced last month goes ahead. But Wilson, with a 1% stake in Tesco (worth £225m), and a seat on the board and the executive, is effectively his number two. In fact, some have even speculated that Wilson’s appointment has just created the Tesco succession plan. 

In any event, with the ability to leverage Tesco’s supply chain, his Booker business will have the buying power to secure far better terms - synergies that it can either keep for itself and Tesco’s benefit, or share with its independent symbol members. The latter scenario is surely the more likely (or independents would soon cry foul) but in doing so it raises the probability that - in conjunction with better choice and service - Booker will attract even more custom, while rival wholesalers (and in turn their members) will be unable to compete. 

Such a prospect is likely to attract the attention of the Competition & Markets Authority, and its acting chief executive, Andrea Coscelli (qv). If the merger is waived through, however, it is surely certain that further consolidation within the wholesale sector will ensue, underlining the far-reaching influence of Wilson. Suppliers will be similarly concerned at the prospect of losing valuable margin through the synergies identified. But such is the power of Wilson they are likely to be excited, as Wilson has consistently delivered growth in the past. And there’s no reason to suggest he shouldn’t do so again - if he gets his way with the CMA.



Steve Rowe ▲


Last ranked: 9

Rowe will have been encouraged that Christmas fashion sales increased for the first time in six years on the back of a less is more look (and merchandising).

But Rowe knows which side his bread is buttered, so his strategic review in November included a strategic refocus on food across all stores, accelerating openings of new Simply Foods while slashing home and clothing space by up to 25% . 

He also wielded the knife in other ways, announcing 60 store closures, reversing its international expansion and this month axing Alexa Chung’s designs as he focuses, unapologetically, on Mrs M&S.



Rakesh Kapoor ▲

CEO, Reckitt Benckiser

Last ranked: 15

If power was about pay packets, none would surely rank higher than Kapoor, whose record of “excellent growth” and outperformance” at Reckitt Benckiser earned him a bumper £23.3m pay packet. 

Still, it’s hard to argue with Kapoor’s credentials, with an extra £20.8bn in share value delivered during his three years in charge and revenue targets in the 2015 accounts exceeded, including an excellent performance in the UK.

Now he’s in talks to buy US child nutrition firm Mead Johnson for a whopping £13.2bn. And if the steely Kapoor can pull off that megadeal, how big could his pay cheque be next time around?



Matt Davies ▲

Tesco UK CEO

Last ranked: 14

The Tesco UK boss is known for sending weekly morale-lifting messages to staff - but a penny for his thoughts on the arrival of Charles ‘Two Brains’ Wilson? The shock of the proposed Tesco-Booker merger had barely sunk in before the press was speculating on the implications for Davies of the new heir apparent to Lewis. 

But Davies has played an important role in getting the wheels back on Tesco’s underperforming stores. Improved service, much better availability and a retrenchment from distracting online activities have followed his arrival, with all formats recording positive LFLs, even the supposed white elephant Extras.



George Weston ▼


Last ranked: 8

Plunging EU sugar prices, for so long a drag on AB Sugar, reversed in 2016 to such an extent that it was the group’s major driver of profit growth. However, June’s vote to leave the EU crashed ABF’s shares due to fears over its impact on import prices at cost-conscious Primark.

ABF’s shares have lost a quarter of their value in the past year as growth in Primark slowed, but in the final quarter of 2016 Primark and AB Sugar outperformed expectations and Twinings and Ovaltine continued their solid performance. So despite a tough year, Weston has expectations of a “strong rebound” in 2017.



Doug Gurr ►◄

UK MD, Amazon

Last ranked: NEW

Amazon’s former China boss Doug Gurr took over last April. He also has huge grocery experience from his time at Asda and Blueheath. But forget Amazon Fresh. Its much-anticipated foray into the UK grocery market in June, though well received, has not been a game-changer.

Or not yet. Initially launching in 69 London postcodes, it is available in 30% of the country (or 190 postcodes). Amazon Go is even more early stage. No. The power Gurr holds is through Amazon as a whole, and its influence on deals like Sainsbury’s/Argos in GM and, more recently, Booker-Tesco, in terms of the growth in B2B via Marketplace.



Tomas Pietrangeli ►◄

MD, Arla UK

Last ranked: NEW

Arla has shown real leadership around adding value and branding credentials to milk. They’ve just announced another £37.5m in UK investment with a focus on branding. They’ve launched yellow top milk, kids focused milks, vitamin enriched milks and are the partner for Morrisons’ Milk for Farmers and for a similar scheme at Asda. 

They’ve also announced plans to push organic dairy more - yet another way to add value to this notoriously commoditised category. In doing so, Pietrangeli, who took over from Peter Giørtz-Carlsen last February, plans to help increase global revenues to £2.6bn as part of Arla’s Good Growth 2020 strategy.



Richard Cousins ▼

CEO, Compass Group

Last ranked: 11

Richard Cousins

The resignation of Cousins as a Tesco non-exec director, following its decision to merge with Booker, diminishes his influence in grocery – though we will have to wait and see if his disapproval of that deal was right.

But the power of Cousins over the wider food and drink sphere shows no signs of waning. His Compass Group – a foodservice and facilities management business – not only has a higher market capitalisation (£24bn) than Tesco (£16bn). It’s been growing continuously for more than 10 years across 50 markets since he was parachuted in back in 2006, turning Cousins into a FTSE100 star.

Cousins started his career at Cadbury-Schweppes but it was at British plasterboard manufacturer BPB that he first earned his reputation, quadrupling its sales and selling it to St Costain.

His turnaround of Compass effectively sealed his reputation. Following a string of profit warnings, his arrival heralded the disposal of non-core assets but he has also bolted on easily digestible acquisitions, in a strategy built around simplicity and common sense, with profits to £1.5bn on £20bn of sales over the course of his reign.



Sean Clarke ►◄

CEO, Asda

Last ranked: NEW

The new Clarke has been quietly restoring Asda’s price credentials - even if he hasn’t gone ‘nuclear’ as some predicted. After a very unusual start to the Grocer 33 year - where Asda went five weeks without offering the cheapest basket - the chain went on an eight week winning streak starting in October. In January Kantar Worldpanel reported Asda sales down 2.4%, which it described as a “considerable improvement” on the 4.7% decline it reported in December, not to mention the 7.5% decline in August. Clarke is also improving availability and store standards. But amidst rumours Walmart might sell Asda, he still has much to do.



Steve Murrells ▲

CEO, the Co-op

Last ranked: 39

Murrells was given a deserving promotion this week as Richard Pennycook announced plans to stand down. For if Pennycook saved the Co-op from the near-implosion of its scandal-hit bank, Co-op food was itself weeks away from going bust when Murrells joined in 2012. 

After a nerve-racking couple of years, however, the food business has outperformed the market for 13 consecutive quarters, reporting like-for-like sales growth of 3.1% in the latest half-year. 

The former One Stop CEO also plans to open 100 new c-stores and invest £70m this year. And with his membership proposition flying how long before the divi returns?



Ronald Kers ▼

CEO, Müller Group

Last ranked: 13

Kers had to deal with the inevitable growing pains of a much larger Müller last year, as the practicalities of absorbing Dairy Crest’s liquid milk division hit home. 

The dairy giant announced plans to close its Chadwell Heath dairy, and was forced to delay a potentially divisive new farmer supply contract - which brought together its existing suppliers and former Dairy Crest farmers - in the face of fierce opposition. It also faced farmer protests over farmgate prices as the dairy market improved. 

The processor canned the Wiseman brand and replaced it with new Müller branding on milk, and pledged to reduce sugar in its yoghurts.



Christian Hartnagel ►◄

MD, Lidl

Last ranked: NEW

Christian Hartnagel

34-year-old Hartnagel was catapulted into the hot seat from Lidl Austria last September, following the charismatic Ronny Gottschlich’s surprise exit. Fears Hartnagel would be a chip off the stiff old Lidl block have evaporated as he’s introduced a more relaxed dress code in its Wimbledon HQ. He’s also evolved Lidl’s marketing with the January launch of ‘Big on Quality, Lidl on Price’ and plans a softer, more modern colour palette in stores.

The board, too, has undergone a spring clean, with three new COOs rather than the previous two, including Tim Ulbrich who joined from HQ, as well as a new HR director. This upheaval doesn’t appear to have unduly affected trading, with like-for-like sales reportedly up 5% over Christmas. Hartnagel now wants to accelerate growth through a more flexible approach in terms of store sizes, including smaller footprint opportunities and greater emphasis on growing its estate in the North. Around 250 sites already have board approval, with 50-60 per year to be built for at least the next two years, and a total of 1,500 stores still the target.



Ivan Menezes ▲

CEO, Diageo

Last ranked: 19

Diageo has been on the defensive over the past few years as it’s battled a slump in sales growth in China and other key emerging markets. Now it is back on the front foot. Menezes said last month Diageo was “building a stronger, more consistent, better performing company” as he announced 4.4% growth in first-half organic net sales and operating profits and solid growth in almost every market. Johnnie Walker was a standout performer - notably bouncing back in China. It helped that Brexit puffed its top-line sales as the weak pound increases the value of its vast international revenues. Shares are more than 18% up yoy.



Jason Tarry ▲

Tesco chief product officer

Last ranked: 22

Veteran Tarry has emerged as a key figure in Tesco’s turnaround, transforming supplier relations while overseeing the seismic Tesco Project Reset.

The latest phase has seen its convenience range pruned by a further 15%. But the standout success has been February’s launch of Farm Brands, a clever replacement for the ailing Value brand that’s helped Tesco match the discounters on price in fresh, and resulted in record participation.

Over the next two years he plans something similar with its 11,000 ambient and chilled own label lines. But keeping suppliers onside while also weeding out ‘unjustified’ price increases’ won’t be easy.



Patrick Coveney ▲

CEO, Greencore

Last ranked: 32

Coveney keeps hitting the mark at Greencore. Last week he reported a 17.1% Q1 rise in revenues to £417m. The recent acquisition of US food-to-go giant Peacock Foods (for $748m) will help mitigate the impact of Brexit on its UK operations, building on its strong growth (sales are up 31%) in the US, making it better placed to deal with the increased costs of raw materials (£20m alone) and imported labour post-Brexit. Coveney has further “plans to mitigate the impact” by reducing his reliance on temporary agency workers (at one UK sandwich factory in East London 80% of staff are now on permanent contracts compared with 50% previously).



Andy Adcock ▲

Director of food, M&S

Last ranked: 40 

Adcock has been given the tools to ramp up food at Marks & Spencer - a lot more floorspace will be devoted to food (an additional 25% is rolling out across the estate, starting with 60 stores). And if M&S’s Christmas range is anything to go by, it has a brilliant team in place to drive foodie NPD all year round (its marketing was also excellent). Early indications are that click & collect will be pushed harder, cafés and delis will be extended and refreshed, SKU numbers will be increased (M&S has around 20,000 to choose from), and prices will be sharpened to allow it to compete with a typical trolley from Tesco.



Rob Collins ▲

MD, Waitrose

Last ranked: 26

Mark Price probably left at the right time. Collins has called a halt to the Waitrose space race as profits have fallen and like-for-like sales declined.

Instead he wants to sweat assets harder. His plans include greater focus on foodservice, including wine bars and cookery schools, and revamps to key fixtures such as meat & fish, bakery grazing areas and BWS.

The launch of Waitrose 1 has been a success in growing the top line but it doesn’t mask the fact that overall volumes are declining, while online value sales growth has stopped entirely as Collins has pulled the plug on costly incentive-based marketing investment.



Malcolm Walker ▲

CEO, Iceland

Last ranked: 59

Malcolm Walker

Iceland is never boring. After the heady days of Walker buying back the business he founded in 1970 for £1.45bn in 2012, things were looking grim by 2015, with Walker admitting sales at Christmas were “bloody awful” and the business was in “deep shit”.

But today things are on the up - according to Kantar, like for likes are up 9.6%, making Iceland the second fastest growing supermarket in the country, just behind Aldi and ahead of Lidl.

Three main factors are responsible: the performance of Food Warehouse, which is run by son Richard Walker; its inspired Power of Frozen ad campaign; and, most important of all, its ranging. Iceland’s frozen ranges have been given a massive overhaul, with the quality of the food, the packaging and the presentation improved dramatically.

Iceland has also built on the concept of signing exclusive deals with high street brands that it started with Greggs, and has done an equally effective job with Slimming World, Pizza Express and more. 

Meanwhile a revamped Clapham store enjoyed “f***king amazing” results says Walker. 

Looks like he’s found his Midas touch again.



Ranjit Singh ▲

CEO, 2 Sisters

Last ranked: 38

The chicken king hasn’t lost his appetite. Acquisitions have put Singh in a powerful supplier position over the years and in January his bid to buy Bernard Matthews was completed. Other purchases in 2016 included Ed’s Easy Diner, Giraffe from Tesco, and the Grove Farm turkey business. In 2015 sales hit £3.1bn and operating profit leapt 58% to £90.5m. Over £200m was ploughed back into the business to improve manufacturing capabilities. In December, Q1 numbers for 2016 were solid, with a 5% rise in sales and pre-tax profits growing £1.1m to £18.7m. However, Singh warned Brexit - which he was against - will hurt grocery.



Andy Higginson ▲

Chairman, Morrisons

Last ranked: 18

He has a lower profile these days but Higginson has played a key steering role in the Morrisons revival - not least by appointing former Tesco colleague David Potts (qv) as CEO. 

Now it’s the execs’ show, though Higginson still works behind the scenes to support them and it’s no doubt helpful (and unusual) to have a chairman with such a long grounding in the industry, in a 25-year career that includes spells at Unilever, Guinness, Poundland, as well as 15 years at Tesco, most notably as chief financial officer. Higginson also joined Morrisons broker Shore Capital as a senior advisor last February.

Back to number 1


Arora Brothers ▲

Founders, B&M Bargains

Last ranked: 37

Big, bold and bright, discounter B&M Bargains has made hay - while Poundland made a hash of its 99p Stores acquisition. With a broad offer, encompassing everything from grocery to home improvement, it recorded its best ever Christmas (a 20.7% rise to £741.4m) and its share price is up 6% over the last 12 months. Stores have also become cleaner and clearer while its grocery range has expanded. In January it launched a £250m refinancing plan to support further growth. Brothers CEO Simon and trading director Bobby have strong reputations as canny operators. And chairman Sir Terry Leahy is watching over them, approvingly.



Tim Steiner ►

CEO, Ocado

Last ranked: 25

With no international deal still, and fresh competition from Amazon (no pun intended), Steiner is still struggling to convince the City of Ocado’s value. 

But the online retailer is still growing sales, customer orders and customer numbers through improved service, new non-food ranges and by rolling out more hubs, spokes and CDCs, the latest - at Andover, which features fancy new robotics - to be followed by a fourth in Erith next year, in conjunction with Morrisons. 

But Steiner’s strategy is still swallowing cash, profit margins are low and, as rivals develop one-hour deliveries, does Ocado have an answer?



Roger Whiteside ▲

CEO, Greggs

Last ranked: 48

In four years, Whiteside has taken Greggs from a baker with a clapped out UK estate and falling sales to a good looking performer on track for 14 consecutive quarters of like-for-like growth. With the refurb of the estate under way, Whiteside focused on food to go, with loaves of bread and cakes giving way to funkier fare like whole pizzas, burritos, Balanced Choice and on-trend drinks like green tea. But Whiteside has left the core hot savoury pastry treats well alone, vowing that increasing the price of his sausage rolls and steak bakes in the wake of input inflation, the living wage and the apprenticeship levy will be a last resort.



Tom Morris ►◄

CEO, TJ Morris

Last ranked: NEW

TJ Morris - which trades under the Home Bargains fascia - is the biggest independent fmcg retailer in the UK after climbing steadily to the top over the last few years. Sales and pre-tax profits at the retailer, which Morris founded aged 21 in 1976, are both in double-digit growth (15% and 17.9% respectively) thanks to a combination of new stores, like-for-like growth, and moving existing stores to more suitable premises. That level of agility extends to its ambitions to move down South - its heartland has always been the Midlands and North - and it has a target of 700 stores by 2020, so is planning to open around 50 a year.



Tom Moody ▲

VP and MD Northern Europe, P&G

Last ranked: 34

Retailers talk privately of a new P&G under Moody’s leadership. In challenging trading conditions – Aldi’s growing dominance in infant care, for example, has helped to wipe 4% off P&G’s nappy sales – the straightforward Yorkshireman has rationalised P&G’s portfolio, and increased ad spend – already the highest in the industry at £200m – by a further 20% to help deliver more from less.It appears to be working. With brands like Fairy, Oral B, and Ambi Pur doing well (and to a lesser extent Ariel), P&G recently increased its profits guidance to Wall Street. Moody’s key UK market is understood to be playing a part in that.



Richard Pennycook ▼

CEO, the Co-op

Last ranked: 21 

If he wasn’t about to stand down, he would rank far higher in this list. But Pennycook has orchestrated the Co-op’s fiendishly difficult recovery with calm and cerebral aplomb.

Pennycook will be forever remembered as the man who saved the Co-op. But it’s not just been saved, it’s in fine fettle, with a proven new leader up front in Steve Murrells (qv), and the support of a superb board in defence, marshalled by Allan Leighton (qv). 

The only real concern is over the bank. Its liabilities are more limited these days (thanks to Pennycook), but he will stay on, in a part-time capacity, to resolve them.



Paul Mills-Hicks ▲ 

Food commercial director, Sainsbury’s

Last ranked: 30

Paul Mills Hicks

A linchpin of the Sainsbury’s management team since his promotion in 2014, working closely alongside CEO Mike Coupe, Mills-Hicks has been instrumental in initiatives such as the Making Sainsbury’s Great Again strategy (the strapline was devised in a pre-Donald Trump era). 

Perhaps his most notable achievement this year was taking the difficult decision to axe multibuys from the supermarket’s aisles. Mills-Hicks finally rid all branches of bogofs and three-for-twos in July this year, two months ahead of schedule, claiming an industry first.

The no-tolerance strategy has raised some eyebrows, especially with Sainsbury’s failing to register any signficant growth in food sales. 

But Mills-Hicks has remained resolutely confident that he is doing the right thing, reasoning that axing promotions will cut food waste, reduce shopper confusion over complex promotional mechanics, lower prices, and fit with the modern consumer’s ‘little and often’ shopping habits. 

“It’s clear that shoppers are enjoying the freedom to make decisions about what they buy based on what they need, rather than what’s on offer,” he says.


David Forde ►

MD, Heineken

Last ranked: 33

With Forde in charge, Heineken is well on its way to secure the £400m takeover of Punch Taverns after rival suitor Emerald Investment Partners dropped out, leaving the field clear for Heineken and Patron Capital to clinch the deal, which will (if approved) see the Dutch brewer become the third largest pub company in the UK behind Enterprise and Greene King. Heineken, which already owns 1,049 leased pubs through its Star Pubs & Bars, will grow its estate to almost 3,000 pubs as a result. 

Forde has also played an instrumental part in broadening Heineken’s portfolio to quench the thirst for smaller and craft brews.



Gina Boswell ►◄

General manager, Unilever UK & Ireland

Last ranked: NEW

Parachuted in from the US where she headed up personal care, Boswell took over when Graeme Pitkethly was promoted to Unilever CFO in 2015, and has kept a low profile while global boss Paul Polman (qv) has adopted a more public-facing role. 

Even when the high profile Marmitegate spat with Tesco erupted in October, as Boswell sought a 10% price hike, Boswell kept schtum, communicating assiduously behind the scenes to resolve the situation but issuing a simple company statement rather than entering personally into the fracas. A wise move that put the lid on the rumpus in barely 24 hours.



Zameer Choudrey ▼

CEO, Bestway

Last ranked: 27

Choudrey’s £725m splurge on the Co-op’s 770 chemists raised eyebrows at the time. Fast forward to today and the rebranded Well Pharmacy is now the third largest in the UK, with sales and profits growing despite “government intervention”.

Added to banking and cement investments in recent years, mainly in Pakistan, his programme of successful diversification has turned Bestway into a £3.28bn-sales multinational conglomerate. 

And despite pre-tax profits in its wholesale division plunging 56% in 2016, Choudrey has managed to grow overall profits to £413m and to keep Bestway profitable in all areas of business.



Dame Fiona Kendrick ▼

UK CEO, Nestlé

Last ranked: 28

Dame Fiona Kendrick must feel like she spends her life firefighting for Nestlé. If it isn’t justifying a mysteriously shrinking KitKat, it’s facing off the militant anti-sugar lobby or appeasing angry Brits that discover their caffeine fix has gone up by 14%.

But despite a tough market she’s helped deliver 3.5% organic revenue growth.

A concise structure that sees much of what is manufactured by Nestlé in the UK consumed here will also give Kendrick and her team an advantage as Brexit takes its toll on imports, but there’s no doubt the manufacturer will find itself increasingly impacted by inflation – another firefight to face.



Ibrahim Najafi ▲

CEO, Froneri

Last ranked: 41

Najafi was already a big fish in the international ice cream sector, leading R&R, the world’s third largest manufacturer, but following the major new joint venture - a year in the making - between R&R and Nestlé he is now leading an even bigger operation. Froneri was officially launched in October and boasts €2.6bn of sales across 22 countries across the globe. The joint venture, backed by private equity giant PAI Partners, will go toe to toe with the world’s biggest ice cream producer Unilever. But challenges remain in a global ice cream market struggling to achieve growth, with both Nestle’s Movenpick and R&R’s pre-merger sales slowing.



Diana Hunter ▲

CEO, Conviviality

Last ranked: 43

Diana Hunter

Hunter has not looked back since taking Conviviality public in 2013. The group today is almost unrecognisable from its origins as the owner of Bargain Booze, the budget chain of off-licences predominately based in the North. Not content with taking over on-trade wine supplier Matthew Clarke, a group more than twice the size of Conviviality, Hunter extended her reach into the supermarkets with the acquisition of Bibendum PLB just seven months later. The business has positioned itself as the supplier of choice for consumers wherever they are drinking, whether at home or at pubs, restaurants, hotels, or even festivals.

The substantial execution risk as the drinks group integrates its major acquisitions has been carefully managed, with a crack team, including Booker’s Mark Aylwin, ex-Argos COO David Robinson and former Carlsberg UK MD James Lousada hired to oversee the three new divisions. Half-year results two weeks ago revealed the hard work was paying off as sales tripled to £783m and profits boomed. Hunter hailed it as proof of Conviviality’s competitive advantage and position as the UK’s leading drinks wholesaler.



Andy Bond ►◄

CEO, Pepkor Europe

Last ranked: NEW

Andy Bond Web

Andy Bond web

Bond is back. The former Asda CEO took over as Poundland CEO in November - at a very interesting time for the biggest pound shop in Europe. 

After over 20 years of strong growth trading on its ‘Everything’s a Pound’ strapline - resulting in an initially hugely successful flotation - Poundland started to wobble. Its £55m acquisition of rival 99p Stores gave it a boost in terms of property but it struggled to integrate it successfully and amid falling profits, talismanic CEO Jim McCarthy retired in March 2016. Six months later, his replacement, Kevin O’Byrne, had gone too (to Sainsbury’s) after Steinhoff snapped it up for £600m. 

Enter Andy Bond as CEO. His fledging six-strong GHM! Variety discounter fascia will be absorbed into the Poundland estate and it will start to sell his Pep & Co clothing range. 

Meantime, Poundland has softened its rigid stance over charging more than a pound for a product. McCarthy vowed it would never happen but Bond has other ideas. 

Whether abandoning its USP to join the crowded multi-priced variety market, where rivals range from B&M to Wilko, is a wise move remains to be seen, but Bond has a reputation for being a shrewd operator so however counter-intuitive the move feels, it’s unlikely the crowded variety market will welcome Bond’s arrival, either.



Gerry Grey ►◄

CEO, Poundworld

Last ranked: NEW

Often seen as Poundland’s poorer relation, Poundworld underwent a quiet revolution in 2016, securing £50m private equity investment from TPG Capital, opening 35 new stores, a 500,000 sq ft warehouse and appointing a new CEO in the shape of former Tesco veteran Garry Grey (who rose from the Tesco shop floor to Tesco COO and CEO of Tesco Hungary). 

With over 310 stores (including its multi-price Bargain Buys fascia), Poundworld is dwarfed by Poundland, particularly since the latter bought 99p Stores. But with Grey at the helm and financial backing behind it, Poundworld now wants to double in size by 2020. 



Mohsin and Zuber Issa ▲

MDs, Euro Garages

Last ranked: 67

The Issa brothers’ relentless expansion of Euro Garages shows no signs of slowing down in 2017 after the duo snapped up Little Chef, while the announcement of a trial partnership with Sainsbury’s in October 2016 at the brothers’ flagship forecourt in Blackburn came after the £1.3bn valued operator merged with European Forecourt Retail Group. 

A far cry from its humble beginnings in 2001 when the siblings took on their first derelict forecourt in Bury, the Issas’ empire has rapidly grown to 360 UK sites thanks to an aggressive strategy that involves buying petrol stations previously run by the likes of BP, Esso and Shell.



Steve Pappas ▲

Senior VP of Costco Europe

Last ranked: 42

Pappas took on responsibility for $116bn-sales wholesale giant Costco’s European operations in 2015. At the time that comprised a single Spanish outlet but Pappas was charged with spearheading the wholesaler’s launch into France and Iceland (which will open this year) and also launched a second Spanish warehouse. 

He opened another new outlet here too, chalking up 7.9% growth in the UK to take sales to almost £2bn, only half from the new warehouse, and plans to open an extra one or two warehouses each year to up to 40 UK locations (it currently has 28), as well as announcing a major overhaul of its online offer.



Janet McCollum ▲

CEO, Moy Park

Last ranked: 47

Keen on “a culture of constant innovation”, McCollum has overseen a £4m investment in plant to help meet the growing demand for ready-to-eat cooked chicken.

Ahead of the EU referendum, she made a powerful case to stay in, expressing “strong support” for “export security” and open access to markets.

Ironically, McCollum’s £1.4bn turnover company saw a post-Brexit jump in exports, negating a fall in domestic sales volumes. With parent company JBS preparing to list on the NYSE, she has bolstered her management appointing Andrew Richards as commercial director UK & Ireland.



Tracey Clements ►◄

Tesco MD for Metro, Express, and One Stop

Last ranked: NEW

The departure of Tony Reed to Palmer & Harvey saw Tracy Clements, Tesco’s highly rated customer strategy and insight director, step up to MD for convenience and CEO of its One Stop business.

That puts Clements in charge of some 2,750 stores, which sounds like a daunting amount, but Clements has built up comprehensive experience during her 14 years at Tesco, which positions her well for the challenge.

What’s not clear is whether and where that involves integration with Booker and its multiple symbol fascias. But Clements has plenty to be getting on with after a reset that saw a 15% reduction in range.



Charles Rolls & Tim Warrillow ▲

Co-founders, Fever-Tree

Last ranked: 64

The success of Fever Tree was no overnight sensation - it was started by Rolls and Warrillow in 2005 - but since its stunningly successful 2014 flotation, its market cap has soared to £1.5bn (triple that of AG Barr), as momentum builds both globally and organically. 

Thanks to its premium positioning, the sugar tax is less of a problem for its adult soft drinks, but in any case Fever Tree’s success has been built on exports (riding the crest of the global gin and tonic wave) and there is huge potential for growth in a vast US market, with little competition, despite the flattering entry of new rivals.



Stefan Descheemaeker ▲

CEO, Nomad Foods Europe

Last ranked: 45

After snapping up Birds Eye owner Iglo for £1.8bn and Findus’ European business for £500m soon after, growth has remained elusive as Nomad continues to face a declining market for packaged frozen goods.

In the first nine months of its 2016 financial year, pro forma sales were down 5.8% as its three largest markets - UK, Italy and Germany - continued to decline. And given the impact of Brexit on sterling, Nomad warned in November that UK prices may have to rise by up to 12% as many of its raw materials are priced in dollars, and pack sizes of fish fingers are already being reduced to try to compensate for sterling.



Roger Burnley ►◄

COO, Asda

Last ranked: NEW

Roger Burnley

If his nose was put out of joint when, as heir apparent, he was passed over in favour of Sean Clarke (qv) for the CEO role last summer, Burnley didn’t show it. Now he’s overseeing Asda’s refresh programme, bringing its big box stores back to life by focusing on basics like availability and customer service. 

Burnley is opening tills for longer, introducing new cafés and overhauling the fresh produce section (meat and fruit & veg) to make it smarter and more attractive. All things Burnley knows were long overdue but that were prevented by prioritising a healthy bottom line at all costs. 

Burnley also knows a comprehensive facelift isn’t enough, so has empowered store managers to sell hard, giving them autonomy over certain areas of the store at certain times, like some gondola ends, to cater to local demographics. It puts Burnley on the ground at Asda - a powerful position - and one he will need to live up to in order to drag Asda out of the mess it finds itself in right now. But with his genial character, he’s a great foil to the more cerebral Clarke in winning back the trust of store staff.



Jonathan Warburton ▼

Chairman, Warburton

Last ranked: 29

Even Kermit and Miss Piggy haven’t been able to save Warburton from powerful market forces. 

As discounters have stolen share with cheap loaves and the mults have pushed for price cuts, the charismatic Warburton chair has been unable to prevent a whopping £53m decline in sales last year, an 11% drop. 

Warburton, though, has pushed the brand to keep innovating. Smart, on-trend ideas like the Wholemeal Protein loaf stuffed with chickpeas, haricot beans and pea protein show NPD doesn’t have to be dull. As commodity and currency costs increase, however, ongoing negotiations will be vital.



Adam Couch ▲

CEO, Cranswick

Last ranked: 57

Pork might be pricier and processed meat is battling an image crisis, but none of that has stopped Cranswick CEO Adam Couch from growing revenues.

Plenty of Brits tucked into the Hull producer’s gammon joints at Christmas and strong export sales to the Far East helped Couch, who took the reins in 2012, report revenues “well ahead of the previous year” for the three months to 31 December, following a 16% growth in the first half. 

Buying Dunbia’s Northern Irish pig slaughterhouse in November gives Couch even greater potential and he has made no secret of his plans to use this capacity to “catapult” sales to the Chinese.



Bernard Deryckere ▼

CEO, Alpro Europe

Last ranked: 73

Deryckere’s all-conquering dairy alternative brand continued to make waves last year, with sales of its drinks soaring by 19.7% on the back of a growing clamour from consumers switching away from traditional dairy products. Alpro made more in sales than any other brand in the dairy and dairy alternative category apart from market leader Cravendale.

Back to number 26


Kevin Brennan ▲

CEO, Quorn

Last ranked: 71

Kevin Brennan

You’d have forgiven Quorn boss Kevin Brennan for putting up his feet and enjoying all those plaudits in 2015 when the meat-free producer racked up record sales of £150m, shifting veggie mince, sausages and chicken from its North Yorkshire base to no fewer than 15 international markets. 

Instead, Brennan, who formerly took Special K from a diet breakfast cereal to a mainstream brand, recognised the potential for the firm to reach even more people with its fungi -based meat substitute. 

This year he’s driven through a raft of NPD, including extra SKUs in its vegan range, three new frozen meals, and new crispbakes and escalopes listed by the mults from November. 

Then in January, he bravely brought an end to the brand’s wildly successful partnership with Olympic champion Mo Farah, which added 17% in incremental sales over a three-year period, to tempt in new blood in the form of fellow Olympians swimmer Adam Peaty and hockey captain Kate Richardson-Walsh. Both will star in a £2.5m push cooking recipes using Quorn for two months.

That refusal to stand still and grow complacent, as well as the huge boom in flexitarian diets, with mainstream consumers ditching meat several times a week, has seen the Quorn boss beat a sluggish market and deliver sales growth of 5.2% in the past year, adding £5m of gross profit at the same time. 

As if that weren’t enough, Brennan revealed his plans for the biggest expansion in the Quorn brand’s history in November. 

Leveraging the opportunities of its new owner Monde Nissin Corporation, which bought up the brand for a punchy £550m in 2015, it’s set to push ahead with launches in Asia and other major overseas markets. 

With its first office opening in Singapore, new products have already hit shelves in Manila with further expansion planned into the wider Asian market in the first quarter of this year. It’s all part of a plan to turn Quorn into a billion dollar business “at great speed”, says the ambitious Brennan, who also added 25 new commercial roles to its offices in the UK, US, Italy and Germany. Quorn now exports to 22 countries around the world.



Christine Tacon ▼

Groceries Code Adjudicator

Last ranked: 20

It’s been a year since Christine Tacon’s last and first investigation, and just this week she revealed she was backing off from another full-scale probe into payment for positioning on shelf, despite suspicions it was rife among several retailers. The question now is, will her role be extended to suppliers or expanded beyond the top 10 retailers?



Rafael Oliveira NEW

Zone President of Kraft Heinz Europe

Last ranked: NEW

Oliveira took over from Matt Hill in October 2016 but the focus remains the same since Warren Buffett and 3G snapped up Heinz: cut costs and maximise profits. This intensified with 2015’s Kraft mega-merger. Trouble is sales are falling in Europe (down 14.5% and 7.8% on an organic basis), in the latest quarter, and UK annual sales fell 6.4% as Heinz’s iconic beans and soups continued to decline. Will healthy NPD help?



Hans Roelofs ▲

CEO, Refresco

Last ranked: 55

Since driving through a £1bn IPO in 2015, Roelofs has been thirsty for international growth. In 2016, he oversaw a rebranding and refinancing to give Refresco firepower for its buy-and-build strategy. The soft drinks bottler snapped up Whitlock Packaging for £98m in July, its first expansion outside Europe. It followed the takeover of Dutch beverage manufacturer DIS.



Simon Litherland ►

CEO, Britvic

Last ranked: 50

Litherland kicked off 2017 by doubling down on his Brazilian growth plans with the £55m acquisition of the Bela Ischia Alimentos juice business. Closer to home, he is challenging Fever-Tree’s dominance of the premium mixer category with a new range. Britvic’s PepsiCo brands are outperforming the UK carbonates market but Robinsons is in decline.



Ken McMeikan ►◄

CEO, Brakes

Last ranked: NEW

McMeikan orchestrated the most seismic deal in Brakes’ history when he sold for $3.1bn to US distribution giant Sysco last February. The deal wiped out its $2.3bn debt at a stroke and opened up growth in new and existing European markets. With flat sales in the US, Sysco’s said its recent profits growth was “primarily” down to Brakes.



Darren Blackhurst ►◄

Commercial director, Morrisons

Last ranked: NEW

Although he spent time at Matalan and B&Q, Blackhurst is a grocery man. He spent 18 years at Tesco and five years at Asda. Renowned for his tough negotiating, he launched a 12 point plan to make Morrisons buyers ‘listen’, ‘show mutual respect’ and ‘act with honesty and integrity’ but he’s also made Morrisons more competitive on price, and its selection more appealing.



Ian Ellington ▼

UK GM, PepsiCo

Last ranked: 36

Ellington nailed PepsiCo’s colours to the healthier eating mast last year, pledging in the autumn to slash sugar, satfat and salt across its soft drinks and snacks portfolio. That said, with its bagged snacks division in heavy decline, Ellington was strangely late to go big on popcorn. And even then, Pop Works was sugary stuff. Plus Tropicana sales fell and Quaker Oats too.



Andrew Selley ▲

CEO, Bidvest

Last ranked: 65

Selley has done a good job turning round food service giant Bidvest, snapping up smaller and more agile wholesalers across the country to extend its reach. He’s also axed regional MDs, cut the board by 20% and empowered general managers to make the decisions when it comes to their own branches. He recently began his two-year reign as FWD chairman.



Giles Brook ▲

CEO European, Middle Eastern and African (EMEA), Vita Coco

Last ranked: 62

After selling Bear, serial entrepreneur Brook is focused exclusively on coconut water brand Vita Coco. The number one brand in the UK’s booming £100m market it is also adding value to the struggling oils category with its coconut oil. Brook is also using some of the proceeds from the £71m Bear sale to back a number of fmcg startups.



Alison Brittain ▼

CEO, Whitbread

Last ranked: 60

Alison Brittain

Our insatiable thirst for barista-brewed coffee to go helped new CEO Alison Brittain report Q3 sales growth of 8.3% at Whitbread last month, as Costa coffee buoyed flagging revenues elsewhere in the leisure business. 

It’s a worrying dynamic that former banker Brittain has been unable to shift since taking over in 2016. And shareholders were unimpressed (shares plunged 5%), a nod to analyst warnings that the imminent Brexit break is only likely to leave leisure and hospitality worse off in the next few years to come. Other less than welcome issues Brittain had to handle in 2016 were a storm over the growing mountain of non-recyclable disposable coffee cups, and questions over whether Costa were charging 30p more for a large coffee that held the same volume as a regular one. 

But Costa is still popular -Brittain opened up another 1,250 vending machines in petrol stations over the year.



Andy Atkinson ►◄

Marketing and customer director, Morrisons

Last ranked: NEW

Looking after its customers is part of what made Morrisons great - and Atkinson is directing the charge to make it happen again. He started by listening to them, even going shopping with them, then actioning change, from adding free-from ranges to tweaking Match & More and hiring Publicis to ram home the new ‘Morrisons Makes it’ message.



Roger White ▼

CEO, AG Barr

Last ranked: 56

Falling prices, changing consumer tastes and a disappointing summer combined to hit revenues at AG Barr in the first half, with total sales falling £5m to £125.6m. White oversaw drastic steps to cut sugar, including the launches of a sugar-free Irn-Bru and low-cal Rubicon Spring. A better performance in the second half boosted full-year like-for-likes by 1.5%.



Sir Michael Bibby ▼

MD Bibby Line Group

Last ranked: 53

Volatile markets - notably oil and gas - hit sales and profits at the Bibby Line Group last year, a consequence of the varied spread of business interests. Split out retail, however, and the group says Costcutter is performing well - a dip in sales in 2016 was countered by an improvement in EBITDA and a 30% sales uplift for its Independent own-label products.



James Watt & Martin Dickie ▲

Founders, BrewDog

Last ranked: 82

The craft brewer goes from strength to strength with their ‘punk’ ethos, exuberant PR and prodigious fundraising skills (almost £30m in two separate rounds).

A 51% sales increase in 2015 saw BrewDog top The Grocer Fast50 for the third year, it’s rolling out more bars overseas, expanding capacity at the Scottish HQ and pushing hard in the US.



Lindsay Boswell ►◄

CEO, FareShare UK

Last ranked: NEW

Lindsay Boswell

As public pressure mounts on supermarkets and manufacturers to tackle systemic food waste once and for all, so too has the significant work of charity FareShare and its passionate CEO Lindsay Boswell come to the fore. 

With the organisation now distributing a huge 29 million meals to charities around the UK Boswell and his team have nudged, pushed and cajoled a staggering proportion of major food retailers and manufacturers to part with their surplus, including a hugely successful partnership with Tesco in 2016 as it rolled out its FareShare Food Cloud app across all its UK supermarkets. 

Articulate and experienced, Boswell has also become a familiar face on the public stage advocating for businesses to do more to cut waste and redistribute surplus as well as persistently calling for government to help in mitigating the inevitable costs of doing the right thing.



Peter Blakemore ▲

Chairman, AF Blakemore

Last ranked: 63

The power player of the Spar empire, Blakemore now has over 2,000 independent and company-owned stores under his belt. The family business celebrates its centennial this year but Blakemore is showing no sign of slowing down. He’s investing heavily in the latest food to go and sealed the first convenience store franchise deal with sausage roll king Greggs.



Dame Sally Davies ►

Chief medical officer

Last ranked 68

The CMO was hardly the toast of the drinks industry a year ago after dropping the bombshell that recommended alcohol intake limits for men were brought into line with women. That, on top of previous support for a sugar tax, has made Davies a controversial figure - not least because her advisers include anti-alcohol and, some claim, anti-food industry campaigners.



Mark Allen ▲

CEO, Dairy Crest

Last ranked: 86

The processor has a newfound confidence after offloading its loss-making dairies division to Müller at the end of 2015. The City looks happy as well, with Dairy Crest profits rising 19% for the six months to 30 September on the back of higher volumes of its cheese and butter brands. Allen said Dairy Crest was now a “leaner and more focused organisation”.



Agust and Lydur Gudmundsson ►◄

CEO and chairman, Bakkavor

Last ranked: NEW

After almost losing the business when the credit crunch hit in 2008, the Gudmundssons have turned around the chilled convenience foods empire. The pair finally retook control of Bakkavor last year after teaming up with US hedge fund Baupost and are rumoured to be preparing a flotation on the London Stock Exchange.



Andrea Coschelli ►◄

Acting CEO, CMA

Last ranked: NEW

The shock merger of Tesco and Booker will throw the little-known Coscelli into the spotlight for the first time since the departure of Alec Chisholm, who quit last June. Coscelli has worked in a variety of economic and competition roles in government watchdogs (CMA, Ofcom) and has promised to “step up the pace, scale and impact of enforcement”.



Allan Leighton ▲

Chairman, Co-op

Last ranked: 89

The power of a great chairman is personified by Allan Leighton, a grocery legend whose arrival at the Co-op gave it real momentum and self-belief. As well as building a world-class board to match any in the FTSE-100, he consistently reminds everyone what the Co-op is and what it stands for - while throwing his weight behind initiatives like 5:1.



Debbie Robinson ▼

MD, Spar UK

Last ranked: 78

Robinson’s agility and passion for hunting down the latest convenience and shopping trends has landed Spar some of the most innovative and successful symbol retailers operating in the UK. Testing new store formats and targeting partnerships with other brands, including Holland & Barrett and Alpro, has delivered strong sales and profits uplifts for the group.



Leendert Den Hollander ▲ 

VP and general manager for GB, Coca-Cola European Partners

Last ranked: 75

Den Hollander is dynamic and can-do, but he’s facing into some serious headwinds, with consumers ditching sugary drinks while a slump in sterling also affected revenues in the GB portfolio, down a bitter 10.5%. But the new IGD president has the weight of the largest independent Coke bottler behind him for the battle ahead.



Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall ▲ 

Chef, TV presenter and campaigner 

Last ranked: 84


You have to hand it to Hugh: he knows how to run an effective campaign. Fresh from fighting EU Fisheries Policy, the chef turned his gaze to piles of wasted parsnips in 2015, adding to the momentum for the widespread adoption of wonky fruit and veg we see in supermarkets today. 

Placing Morrisons firmly in his sights, his emotive campaign, full of parsnip mountains and weepy suppliers on the verge of bankruptcy saw the supermarket ramp up its range of wonky veg that it continues to expand today.

The latest iteration of Hugh’s War on Waste also took on the coffeeshops, making empty coffee cups controversial enough to generate plenty of column inches - and see Costa launch a new recycling scheme this week in over 2,000 stores to address the issue of the 7m thrown away every day. Hugh gets results. Badly behaved businesses be warned if he’s on the warpath again in 2017.

Back to number 51


Angus Thirlwell ►◄

CEO, Hotel Chocolat

Last ranked: NEW

Thirlwell’s gamble on the demand for premium products in the UK paid off handsomely in May as he, and co-founder Peter Harris, floated the luxury chocolatier at £167m. Investors flocked to get a piece of the first major food & drink IPO in London since Fever-Tree in November 2014. The share price almost doubled by the end of 2016 as profits leapt 91% to £5.6m.



Richard Walker ►◄

MD, Iceland Food Warehouse

Last ranked: NEW

Son of Malcolm, Walker was handed Food Warehouse - the future of Iceland Foods - to run in 2015 and so far, so good. It now has 32 stores, which at 10,000 sq ft are twice the size of a typical Iceland. All are “trading successfully” and all are test-beds for ranging and operational initiatives, which have had a positive knock-on effect on the group’s turnaround.



Tony Reed ▼

CEO, Palmer & Harvey

Last ranked: 35

Appointed in October 2016, the former One Stop boss will need some retail acumen to tackle P&H’s uninspiring performance over the past year with sales down 0.7% and gross profits flat. But recent supply agreements with Conviviality and Morrisons, together with the launch of direct to store service Bakedirect offers some real hope.



John Duffy ▼

CEO, Finsbury Food Group

Last ranked: 74

It was all going so well for Duffy. Its most recent annual results showed a 25% jump in sales to almost £320m and a 30% jump in gross profits as canny acquisitions boosted the speciality cake maker. Then came Brexit and Finsbury faced a “substantial” jump in input costs and flat trading over Christmas. Shares have dropped by 20% since mid-September.



Rowan Gormley ▲

Group CEO, Majestic Wine

Last ranked: 91

A profit warning in September was all forgotten thanks to a booming Christmas in Majestic stores and a strong performance from its Naked Wines website. Gormley says Majestic is now on target to hit £500m annual sales by 2019 and shares rose 6% as a result - although the results were partly down to a 1% cut in gross profit margin which divided analyst opinion.



Charles Ireland ▲

GM for GB, Ireland, France, Diageo

Last ranked: 83

Ireland was appointed last summer. By January his impact on Diageo’s interim results was reflected in share gains for a number of its brands, with Baileys up 2% and a 10bps gain for Guinness driven by improved distribution and Hop House 13 innovation. Tanqueray 10 and reserve scotches also grew. And expect more from Haig Club as its reputation builds.



Blas Maquivar 

President of UK chocolate and global retail, Mars

Last ranked: 77

The Mars bar was one of the biggest losers of 2016, according to Nielsen, with sales down £11.8m, and Maltesers and Snickers not faring much better. Maquivar is fighting back though with sales up 2.9%. The inclusion of disabled actors in ads is much praised, and he has pledged to keep price rises to a minimum despite Brexit.



Anthony Fletcher ▲

CEO, Graze

Last ranked: 92

Andrew Fletcher

Fletcher made a bold move by extending Graze from snacks by post into retail in 2015 but it’s paying off. Following a trial in 850 Sainsbury’s stores the retail range is now in 7,000 supermarkets and shops (and it recently gave out one million packs to give it a further push and capitalise on the healthy eating trend in January). Last April it introduced a new sharing bag format to build on the success of its punnets, and a crop of imitators have sprung up to offer similar boxed snacks. 

Overall, in 2016 sales at Graze topped £70m and pre-tax profits were a tasty £7.6m. But it’s not all been great news for Graze. Online sales have slowed after being cannibalised by the retail range, while new delivery terms imposed by the Royal Mail “significantly affected” profitability. But last October it signed a deal to take the range into 3,500 Walgreens stores in the US and Fletcher agreed a deal with Facebook to supply thousands of snacks to its Silicon Valley HQ.



Mary Barnard ▼

UK president, Mondelez

Last ranked: 83

After its controversial acquisition, Cadbury performed well for a while, but Barnard and the Kraft/Mondelez team have found the going tough in recent times, with sales falling again, higher costs to contend with (resulting in unwelcome stories around shrinkflation) and wider pressure on the obesity front. Oreo’s doing well, but oh for a new Marvellous Creation!



Mark Cuddigan ►◄

CEO, Ella’s Kitchen

Last ranked: NEW

The Ella’s Kitchen CEO leads a business that has transformed the category over the years. But he also has transformational plans for the food industry and B Corps, the framework and certification for businesses with a genuine CSR mission. Cuddigan wants to organise fmcg into a more powerful B Corp force. And we wish him the best with that.



Dan Jago ►◄

CEO, Berry Bros & Rudd

Last ranked: New

The new chairman of the WSTA – and Berry Bros CEO – is in for a rocky ride thanks to Brexit. Jago has described Brexit as a “monumental challenge” but is determined to plaay a strong role by navigating members through the resulting chaos and represent the industry. Meanwhile the former head of BWS at Tesco looks to continue the turnaround at Berry Bros & Rudd.



Ed Perry ►

Co-founder and CEO, Cook

Last ranked: 87

Brits can’t get enough of fooling dinner party guests with Cook’s fancy frozen ready meals. Sales at the high street retailer climbed double digits to reach £45m in 2016 with co-founder and managing director Ed Perry refining its concessions business, growing online sales by 50% and opening five new stores, all while its rivals battened down the hatches.



Jamie Oliver ▼

Chef and Campaigner

Last ranked: 69

Oliver used his celebrity power to great effect to buddy up to David Cameron and persuade him of the merits of the sugar tax as part of the government’s Childhood Obesity Plan. But he went from dancing with joy outside parliament to being down in the dumps when Cameron quit and Theresa May released a version of the plan that Oliver panned as watered down.



Peter Aldis ▲

CEO, Holland & Barrett

Last ranked: 95


The UK is on a health kick and Holland & Barrett is in prime position to take full advantage. 

Most recently, Aldis opened some prime real estate to do just that: a split level 10,000 sq ft flagship store on Oxford Street that takes the health kick concept and runs with it. 

Offering cereal to go, a huge amount of protein product and sports nutrition and a vegan nail bar, it has everything a health nut could want (even a ‘body composition consultation service’ that measures visceral fat and water levels). 

At the same time teaming up with Tesco for a handful of store-in-store concessions Aldis believes Holland & Barrett will power its way to becoming a £1bn business by 2020. Although Holland & Barrett by no means has the category to itself anymore. Hipper rivals and online operators are springing up everywhere. And it may yet be challenged by the Grocery Code Adjudicator over its aggressive trading practices.



Jon Jenkins ▲

MD, Allied Milling & Baking Group

Last ranked: 93

These are tough times in bread. As a whole, last year the category saw £87m sliced away. Brexit won’t help – especially not at Allied, which sources much of its wheat from Europe. So NPD will be key and Jenkins is on top of it, ordering a raft of innovation, a new logo and pack design, and claiming to be the fastest growing bread brand in the UK.



Marnie Millard ►◄

CEO, Nichols

Last ranked: NEW

Profits growth has been strong since Millard took the helm at the Vimto owner in 2013 as the group continues to prioritise value over volume. Revenues leapt 7.3% to £117.3m in 2016 thanks to the acquisitions of Noisy Drinks Co and Feel Good Drinks and Vimto’s continuing UK popularity. Millard is driving sub-brand Vimto Remix and no-added-sugar Vimto.



Eric Herd ▼

CEO, Farmfoods

Last ranked: 88

Reclusive and elusive as ever, Herd saw sales and pre-tax profits at Farmfoods drop by 17% to £694m and 4% to £21m respectively over 2016, but it still paid out a healthy dividend to shareholders and grew its store estate from 320 to 331. Like Iceland, it’s introducing a new format for its newest stores to create a “fresh and modern” shopping experience.



Andy Duncan ▼

CEO, Camelot

Last ranked: 70

Doubling the price of a lottery ticket whilst making it harder to win was deemed a gamble that paid off after Camelot reported record full-year sales of £7.3bn in 2015. But 2016’s half-year sales fell 6% to £3.4bn. Duncan pointed to the “current climate of economic uncertainty” and warned the next six months would be “equally challenging”.



Gavin Darby ▼

CEO, Premier foods

Last ranked: 72

Darby took a big risk going against the wishes of key investors by turning down overtures from McCormick in favour of a partnership with Japan’s Nissin Foods. The jury remains firmly out on the wisdom of that decision as promising signs of growth earlier in 2016 have given way to an all-too-familiar slump in sales across key brands, and a profit warning to boot.



Ian Wright ▼

Director general, FDF

Last ranked: 79

The outspoken Wright was unable to convince the FDF to speak out in favour of remaining in the EU. But he did persuade members to support new Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) rules announced in December to ban online advertising aimed at under-16s. And he’s still hoping to get the best deal for the industry in ongoing Brexit negotiations.



Neil Parish ►◄

MD chair of Efra select committe

Last ranked: NEW

Joining politics from life as a dairy farmer, Parish has proved a pragmatic and knowledgeable voice in his Efra select committee role. Leading investigations into everything from the dairy crisis to animal welfare and labour constraints, the MP for Tiverton and Honiton has championed agriculture, establishing three APPGs under his own steam.



Dr Alison Tedstone ►◄

Chief nutritionist, PHE

Last ranked: NEW

Despite getting its way on the sugar levy, PHE failed with a long list of other demands to the government, including moves on marketing and promotions. Tedstone faces not only the job of getting commitments for reduced portion sizes and reformulation, but also tackling wider calorie and satfat intake this year too – not to mention engaging with the out-of-home sector.



Henry Dimbleby ►◄

Co-founder of Leon Restaurants

Last ranked: NEW

Food to go is booming, and Dimbleby (son of David), who founded the Leon chain of ‘naturally fast food’ in 2004, is well placed, with 36 UK outlets plus more in Amsterdam and the US on a franchise basis. And through his London Union venture he plans to open 20 more of its hugely successful nomadic Street Feasts in London, plus a permanent one, by 2020.



Ian Marsh ►◄

UK MD, HelloFresh

Last ranked: NEW

Hello Fresh has a minuscule share of grocery. But it is the potential of the recipe box market – in which, after five years, it is market leader – that earns Marsh a place in The Power List. Marsh is confident recipe boxes will become the new way to eat. Tesco and Waitrose agree and are trying their hand too. And sales of its boxes are growing rapidly internationally.



Tristram Stuart

Founder, Feedback

Last ranked: NEW

Tristram Stuart

Previously the informed advisor behind celeb-led campaigns, Feedback founder Stuart is now enjoying an increasingly public profile himself, delivering advice to the Efra select committee, working with the UN to achieve its Sustainability Development Goal 12.3 and continually holding industry to account on waste.

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Power List methodology

Building the Power List is an exhaustive process. Opinions are sought from industry experts and a wide range of factors are taken into account in order to determine who makes it into the top 100, from market cap to market momentum, to personal reputation and media attention and, of course, influence, not just on their own business but on the wider industry as a whole. And, as with every year, everyone featured in the top 100 is based in the UK.