SWA’s Karen Betts moves to FDF as new chief executive

Karen Betts

Karen Betts, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), will be stepping down from her role later this year to become the new chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).

Betts has led the SWA since May 2017. A lawyer by background, she previously had a two decade career in the Foreign Office and Diplomatic Service. She will succeed Ian Wright at FDF, who steps down at the end of 2021 after seven years in the role.

Announcing the appointment, FDF president Jon Woods said: “Karen Betts has an outstanding track record of achievement representing both our country, and one of our most important and valuable industries.

“This is a time of unprecedented change and opportunity for the food and drink industry. As we emerge from the challenges of Brexit and Covid-19, Karen will bring great understanding of, and experience in, working closely with governments and some of the world’s biggest consumer goods companies. She has spent the last four years speaking for an industry with deep provenance and a range of businesses of all sizes determined that they, too, should be heard.”

Scott McCroskie, chair of the SWA and chief executive of Edrington, commented: “[Karen] has steered the industry successfully through a turbulent period, critically while punitive tariffs were imposed on Scotch Whisky by the United States, through the UK’s departure from the EU, and during the Covid-19 pandemic. Her leadership has helped the industry emerge in a strong and forward-looking position.

“Karen and her team have also positioned the industry to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead. Her focus on increasing diversity in our workforce, achieving our net-zero emissions target and growing trade in key global markets will help to secure the industry’s success in years to come.”

Karen Betts said: “I am delighted to have been appointed as the Food and Drink Federation’s new chief executive, to represent the huge range of companies that keep food on our tables and make up UK’s largest manufacturing industry.

“These are rapidly changing times, with challenges and opportunities for the industry to grasp in everything from addressing climate change, to skills and livelihoods, and healthy diets. I am looking forward to working with the FDF’s members, the FDF team, with government and other organisations as we find the best answers to these questions for all involved.”

Betts is an adviser to the UK government’s Board of Trade, the chair of the CBI’s International Trade and Investment Council, a member of the Scottish Government’s Trade Board and a Trustee of Raleigh International.

SWA said it has begun the process of appointing a new chief executive.