new entry 1 Bart Becht CEO Reckitt Benckiser

Becht has amassed a personal fortune of £80m as head of one of the world's biggest suppliers of household cleaning products but that's not the only reason he enters the suppliers list in top spot.

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new entry 2 Todd Stitzer Cadbury chief executive

The Cadbury chief executive has had a torrid time of it of late - and not just because he's had to swap his plush Mayfair office for a business park in Uxbridge. When Mars bought Wrigley's, Cadbury lost its status as largest confectionery company in the world, having already been the subject of takeover speculation in the wake of the demerger of its US soft drinks arm. But as Stitzer points out, earning second place in our ranking by doing so, Mars has simply followed Cadbury's lead. As a global confectionery company, Cadbury's strategy is now far more simple and coherent than it was a year ago. Yes, it may be vulnerable to takeover, but with Stitzer addressing many of the flaws in the old Cadbury Schweppes business model, any whiff of a takeover is bound to attract share price inflation. And if size is so important, he could always buy Hersheys.

new entry 3 Jeremy Blood head of Heineken's UK operation

Blood is another worthy entrant to the list. Following Heineken's acquisition of Scottish & Newcastle in April, he has taken the helm of S&N's UK portfolio along with its Portuguese, Finnish, Belgian, US and Indian operations, with overall control of key brands such as Heineken, Bulmers Original, Foster's, Strongbow and Kronenbourg 1664. Bulmers Original has already proven to be a strong competitor to Magners and Blood will be pushing the brand heavily in the off-trade and across S&N's 2,000-strong pub estate this summer.

new entry 4 Peter Lauritzen Group Executive Director, Arla Foods UK

Lauritzen took the top job at Britain's biggest supplier of own-label dairy products in April last year, following a buyout by Danish-Swedish parent company Arla amba. The company, which has a turnover of £1.15bn and processes more than two billion litres of milk a year, escaped a fine from the OFT earlier this year over the price fixing of milk. Its influence means it is unlikely to suffer any long-term consequences. Meanwhile, its key brands, Lurpak, Anchor and Cravendale, continue to grow.

last year: 1 5Robert Schofield CEO Premier Foods

Schofield won the admiration of his peers when his purchase of RHM transformed Premier Foods from a brand collector into a food and drink heavyweight, but things haven't gone entirely to plan over the past year. Rising commodity prices have prompted experts to question the merits of the acquisition and at one point sent the company's share price tumbling to a quarter of what it was directly after the deal. Schofield has not stood idly by. The company's future wheat contracts have been extended, the senior management has been strengthened and marketing spend has been increased.

new entry 6 Dave Lewis Unilever UK chairman

Another new entry, Lewis was named chairman in February last year when the company consolidated its three operating companies into a single business as part of its One Unilever programme.

Prone to venting his spleen over the poor quality of NPD in the industry, Lewis has transformed Unilever's approach to product innovation by dividing the business into four segments with NPD tailored to each segment. The brands he presides over include Flora, PG Tips, Magnum and Marmite, many of which have had new variants over the past year. There's more NPD to come, he promises.

last year: 5 7 Martin Glenn, CEO Birds Eye Iglo

Under the former PepsiCo UK and Ireland boss, the company has been quick to present frozen food as a solution to the UK's growing food-waste problem and it continues to push the healthy image of frozen foods with its new Eat Positive range of ready meals.

With the frozen market set to benefit from the credit crunch as cash-strapped consumers turn to cheaper food, this could be Birds Eye's year. Glenn has been a bit quiet recently though, so slips two places down the list.

nEW entry 8 Paul Walsh CEO Diageo

The Diageo boss, who is also chairman of the Scotch Whisky Association, has played a major role in Diageo's commitment to promoting responsible drinking.

But his decision not to close the company's famous Guinness plant in Dublin this month has sparked speculation that Diageo could sell the brand to concentrate on its spirits-dominated portfolio. Walsh sold off Diageo's food operations, and analysts believe he will have no qualms over doing the same with Guinness. Watch this space.

new entry 9 Per Harkjaer Group CEO, The Foodvest Group

The Foodvest Group was created in January through the joining of Young's Seafood and Findus. With a turnover of £1.1bn, it is one of the largest frozen food and seafood companies in Europe. Harkjaer says his top priority is sustainability, but he is also likely to push for more consolidation in the sector.

new entry 10 Iain Ferguson CEO Tate & Lyle

Ferguson's tenure at Tate & Lyle has recently been dogged by profit warnings and a drop in the share price. But Ferguson, who is also president of the Food and Drink Federation and honorary vice president of the British Nutrition Foundation, remains a formidable figure in the industry. And things are looking up at Tate & Lyle, which announced it would convert its entire retail sugar range to Fairtrade by the end of next supplier Bart Becht, Reckitt Benckiser

Storming into the suppliers list at number one, the Reckitt Benckiser boss wields the sort of power and influence that other arguably more obvious contenders can only look on with envy.

When P&G talks of the need to increase its innovation, it does so in response to the level of innovation coming out of Reckitt Benckiser.

Unilever, too, benchmarks its performance against Dutch-born Becht's company.

And little wonder. Since taking the helm of the household, health and personal care company in December 1999, following the merger of Reckitt & Colman and Benckiser, Becht has almost quadrupled the company's earnings to £768m and now presides over a company with a market value of £21bn.

Add to this average sales growth of 7% a year and a soaring share price and the company that boasts Cillit Bang, Harpic, Vanish, Calgon, Lemsip and Nurofen among its brands is rightly considered a market leader. Indeed, Becht is described as a "leading light" by analysts, thanks to his focus on growing markets and the innovative culture he has created at the company.

Last year he revealed that £2bn of the company's £5bn total turnover had come from products that had been launched in the previous three years.

And Becht is not afraid to put his hand in his pocket to move the company into new territories.

In 2005 Reckitt Benckiser bought the over-the-counter drugs unit of the-then Boots for £1.9bn, and in January this year it finalised its £1.1bn takeover of Adams Respiratory Therapeutics, a US maker of over-the-counter medicine.

Becht's hard work has not been without personal reward. He has amassed a personal fortune of £80m and now ranks as one of Britain's 1,000 richest people and highest-paid executives. But given his reputation for innovation, he's earned it.