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Karen Betts to depart SWA for FDF

The CEO of the Scotch Whisky Association, Karen Betts, will leave the organisation at the end of 2021 to lead the UK’s Food and Drink Federation.

Karen Betts
Karen Betts has held the role of CEO of the Scotch Whisky Association for four years

Betts has been CEO of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) since May 2017, taking over the role from David Frost.

She became the first woman to lead the SWA, and the eighth person to head the association, in its 105-year history.

SWA chair, Scott McCroskie, who is chief executive of Edrington, said: “After more than four years in post, Karen will leave the association with our heartfelt gratitude. She 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.”

Betts will become the chief executive of UK membership organisation the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), succeeding Ian Wright, who will step down at the end of 2021 after seven years in the role.

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 joined the SWA following 16 years with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). She was the former British ambassador to Monaco, and previously worked as a lawyer for Clifford Chance in both London and Hong Kong. Betts studied at the College of Law in Guildford, England, and read History at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

McCroskie added that the SWA has started looking for a new CEO and will make further announcements in due course.

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