Paul Grimwood - the Yorkshire-born boss of Nestle UK heads to the US
PUBLISHED: 10:12 05 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:50 20 February 2013
The Yorkshire-born boss of NestlÃ© UK prepares to take over its US division. Chris Titley reports
Like almost everyone brought up in York, Paul Grimwood had connections to its biggest business, Rowntrees.
Hed been driven past the factory on the way to school for many years and knew a number of people who worked there. So when he was appointed head of Nestls UK Confectionery division in 2006 and found himself in charge of the chocolate factory in his home city, it was a special moment.
Professionally I was excited by the opportunity, and personally there was a bit of history and heritage there, coming back to my home town, which was quite exciting, he says.
It wasnt that hed harboured a burning ambition to be the next Willy Wonka. But his York youth left him with a nascent desire to be part of the business world.
I was actually Marks & Spencers first Saturday boy in York, believe it or not, he reveals. They thought it would be a really good idea to find out whether men would feel more comfortable about buying things, getting measured and all of this sort of thing, with a couple of guys in the mens department.
It proved to be an invaluable early introduction to the needs of consumers. Paul went on to take a business studies degree at Huddersfield University, during which he spent a year at the Mars Group.
It was very consumer focused, a very commercial, fast-moving consumer goods type of world, and I thought this is absolutely tremendous.
Paul impressed his bosses to the point where they offered him a job. He stayed at Mars for 10 years then moved to Highland Distilleries as MD and Ralston Purina pet care before it was taken over by Nestl.
The takeover gave him a breadth of experience, working in the marketing and commercial departments in the Middle East and Switzerland. His appointment as the UK confectionery MD then brought him back to York.
It was a critical time for the industry. Kraft, the multinational owner of the citys other major confectioner Terrys, had just shut down its York factory and moved production to Eastern Europe.
Nestl chose another route: investment.
Its a source of personal pride for me, Paul says.
Terrys was sold eight years ago and theres still nothing on that site. Its still redundant and dead.
Nestl decided to reinvest a little bit in the history, heritage and workforce thats here in York. I think weve been proven that we made the right decision.
Not only does the Rowntree factory now boast some of the most advanced manufacturing kit in the world, but York is also home to Nestls confectionery technology centre.
If you go back to the 1950s and you look at the top 20 brands, probably 16 of them are still the same today, says Paul. But people still want to constantly see innovation, products which are better for them, products which are more in tune with their tastes.
Nothing is left to chance. The companys insight centre includes mock-ups of a supermarket and a typical home kitchen so Nestl can hone what they call the path to purchase.
In 2009 Paul became CEO of Nestl UK. How would he describe his leadership style? You dont have to second guess me. Ive got some very strong Yorkshire traits. You always know where you are with me, he says.
As vice-president of the Food & Drink Federation, he bangs the drum for the biggest manufacturing sector in the whole of the UK.
And he is very positive about the future.
Its dawned on people that we cant rely on the financial sector to drive things forward, we have to rely on manufacturing and exports to rebalance the economy, and I think theres a lot of positive effort on that.
Paul has overseen major growth in Nestl UK despite tough trading conditions. And now hes off to the States, as head of Nestl USA, based in Glendale, California. Hell be keeping his York home. But what will he miss most about Yorkshire? I think Ill miss the sense of humour. We have a great Yorkshire sense of humour.
What about our chocolate that American stuffs just not the same is it?
If you go to the States and hand them a Yorkie bar, frankly they dont enjoy it because theyre used to a more sour taste, says Paul.
Ill probably take my own personal supply of chocolate.