Ken Wood regularly eats three ­Weetabix for breakfast and it's an especially important ritual when he's preparing for an interview. Being quizzed by journalists is an experience he finds nerve-racking, despite ­being CEO of one of the country's most respected companies and having a career pedigree that includes steering the Müller yoghurt brand to meteoric UK success in 18 and a half years with the ­German dairy giant, as well as experience gleaned at Eden Vale and Heinz.

He prefers to let the brands he represents do the talking for themselves. Luckily, when those brands include one of the UK's most recognisable and best-loved breakfast cereals, that 'voice' is pretty impressive.

Weetabix's 74-year pedigree and status as the UK's market leader for the past three years is backed by annual sales topping £89m and exports to more than 80 countries. At least three billion of the brand's trademark 'biscuits' are produced annually at the company's Kettering site and there are very few British residents who wouldn't recognise them at the breakfast table.

Wood is particularly keen to flag up the latest £5.5m Weetabix Week advertising campaign, in which consumers are encouraged to ring the changes by trying the familiar breakfast cereal with fruit, nuts and yoghurt. His own favourite accompaniment so far is M&S's fruit compôte, but he is excited about all the options and the ensuing rise in consumers' awareness of the brand.

"More than half of all UK households have Weetabix in their cupboards, but the brand wasn't front of mind," he says. "It's a fact that on its own, day after day, Weetabix can get a bit monotonous, but adding bits and pieces makes it different, and taking on board a better range of foods does mean a fantastically varied breakfast and less need or desire to snack."

He is also aware of the opportunity the campaign presents to cross-promote the brand with fresh fruit and yoghurt, further establishing its health credentials. "We're exploring that avenue and a couple of major retailers are quite excited by the opportunity."

The campaign highlights the fact that Wood himself has been ringing the changes for ­Weetabix and its stable of brands, which includes Ready Brek, Weetos, Seriously Oaty, Weetaflakes and Alpen, besides the eponymous flagship, since he came on board two years ago, six months after the company was bought by US private equity firm Hicks, Muse, Tate and Furst (now known as Lion Capital) for £642m.

At that time, the company and the brand had been following the same tried and trusted method of operation for decades and Wood found that he had a cultural mountain to shift.

"It had a distinctive and very successful way of doing things but I was tasked with taking it to the next level," says Wood.

"The brand had so much strength and trust, but people had very little idea of the extent of the Weetabix business. The shift involved enormous changes - both organisationally and culturally -but I'm happy to say that people have embraced that and the business is going forward with new verve and vigour."

One of the biggest changes has been the company's focus on NPD. Just last month, the com­pany pushed its flagship brand into the premium realms with the launch of Weetabix Gold, made with selected white wheat, and it has also embraced oats in a big way by adding a ready-to-eat Oatibix range, which broadens the brand's cereal base further.

There have been some disappointments, however. Weetabix Chunky Fruit Bars didn't stand the test of time and were axed last year after only a year on shelves, with the company vowing to focus instead on developing its Alpen bars.

Wood, however, is prepared to take the odd knock to drive his brands forward.

"I believe passionately that NPD is the future and now we have people who do nothing else except try to develop new products," he says. "There's an NPD pipeline set up that will take us through to at least the next five years.

"Cereals is turning into one of the most dynamic and competitive sectors. The key is to put out products representing consumer needs rather than just pap."

No food producer can afford to ignore the health agenda these days and, with breakfast hailed as the most important meal of the day, ­cereals manufacturers in particular have to keep it at the forefront of any planning.

Weetabix's increased focus on oats highlights the grain's new-found status as a superfood, while Weetabix readily proclaims its wholegrain products' heart health associations.

It has also added prebiotics to children's brand Weetos, as well as reducing the sugar content of Seriously Oaty.

Wood admits that consumers don't yet fully understand all the terminology - what prebiotic means, for example - but insists that, with ongoing education, they will.

He also believes there is more to come, particularly in communicating with consumers, in terms of product and education.

"We need to go beyond wholegrain and look at the total category," he says. "If we want to con­tinue to grow it, there's a responsibility to make sure products are healthy and worthy, as well as ­tasting great.

"We must take responsibility for helping retailers to signpost just where the goodness lies. Let's not kid ourselves: there are some products that purport to be healthy but are not.

"More needs to be done to make it simple for consumers to understand the health benefits of different cereals and thus make their product choice easier and more simple to understand. This will be key to future growth of the category.

"The key thing is to clearly define well-priced, great-tasting cereals that have great health credentials."

Despite moves from rival manufacturers, category leader Kellogg and Nestlé's Cereal Partners, Wood is far happier to adopt a 'wait and see' approach to on-pack nutritional labelling, preferring to have a standardised method rather than risk confusing consumers.

"The whole essence is a move towards transparency for consumers and if we have people driving off down different alleys, that doesn't happen. I'd like to wait until the Food Standards Agency comes out with clear, fair guidelines and I would be happy to go with that."Q&A

Who do you most admire in the business world?

It's a bit of a cliché but I have huge respect for Richard Branson. He has been enormously entrepreneurial, hugely energetic and also brings in an element of fun - almost like schoolboy pranks with big bucks at the end. He's a classic example of the maxim that if you don't try, you'll never know if it's going to work or not.

What's the most important lesson that you've learnt

The best lesson I've ever learnt was to completely ignore the maxim that 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. You need to challenge yourself, ask different questions and make yourself feel uncomfortable before you can move forward.

What product would you like to have launched?

The Aston Martin DB9, because then I could have kept a sample for myself. It's a fantastic piece of design and engineering - sex on wheels really. With a few bells and whistles added, it would probably set you back £140,000, but it's very understated and very elegant.

How did you get to where you are now?

I spent four years with Heinz trying to forge a career in marketing but realised I wouldn't do it there until I was much older, so I moved to Eden Vale. I worked my way up over ten years, eventually becoming marketing director of the yoghurt brand portfolio which, at the time, included Ski. Then I was approached by German dairy giant Müller to mastermind the launch of its yoghurt brand in the UK. How often does anyone come across and say: 'We're starting a new business with a proven track record elsewhere and we want you, and there's no risk'? It was hugely exciting. I was with Müller for 18 and a half years before moving to Weetabix.