Profile: Julian Hunt, director of comms, Food and Drink Federation

We are, according to the Department of Health, a nation of fatties. DoH research issued last week suggests the UK is 'the fattest country in Europe' and one in seven children is obese.

With such worrying stats and accompanying negative headlines one might have assumed that the mouthpiece of Britain's £66bn food and drink industry would keep a low profile.

As it happens, that is not the case, partly because Julian Hunt - the recently installed comms director at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) - is not a man to keep his head down.

And because he has spent most of the past nine years at food trade bible The Grocer - the last four as editor - he also knows enough about the industry to debate any topic thrown at him.

Hunt, 37, is energised without being manic, and is instantly likeable. If you met him without knowing his background, you'd likely assume him to be a journalist. He is inquisitive, and candid, and happy to admit that he is too new in the job to answer some of PRWeek's questions about his new employer.

Eight weeks into the role, Hunt says he joined the FDF partly because it meant he could use his knowledge and contacts built up over the past 12 years as a journalist, and partly because it gave him a chance to learn a new set of skills.

So how has he found the move to ‘the other side'? ‘Great,' he says, appropriately offering PRWeek plates of biscuits and fruit and rummaging in a cupboard for Smarties. ‘Although I'm still within the first 100 days, so I'd feel a bit of a fraud if I defined my role too much.'

He claims there are many similarities between his position at The Grocer and his role at the FDF. ‘It's about communications - with members, readers and parliamentary audiences - and ­getting information over in a way that is ­accessible. I bring a deep knowledge of the industry and an under-standing of what it's like on the media side', he says.

Hunt adds: ‘I'm not coming here pretending I know anything about PR or public affairs, and being a journalist doesn't give you a God-given right to be a communications expert.'

As Grocer editor he had a ‘punishing' schedule of dinners, events, awards and conferences, and his ability to effectively represent an organisation is clearly something that must have appealed to the FDF.

Simon Mowbray worked with Hunt at The Grocer for five years before ­similarly leaving for a PR job (at Richmond Towers Communications, PRWeek, 31 March), and says the FDF position had Hunt's name ‘written all over it'.

And the industry is clearly pleased with his appointment. Nigel Dickie, director of corporate and government affairs at Heinz UK & Ireland, says: ‘His is no easy task. But he has the energy, enthusiasm and passion to make a difference.'

Hunt lives in Fleet, Hampshire, with wife Gail (who he met while he was at Packaging Week and she was editing rival Packaging News) and their nine-year-old son. But although his neutral accent does not hint at it, he spent his formative years in the North-West. He serves up a cup of tea in an Accrington Stanley mug, is a fan of Blackburn Rovers FC, and manages his son's football team.

A school governor in his spare-time, Hunt says he ‘does all the things that overweight middle-aged men say they do - walking, occasionally riding my bike and playing football when asked.'

Caroline Kinsey, MD of food and drink PR agency Cirkle Communications, says of Hunt: ‘As well as his excellent contacts, Julian's openness and accessibility should also give him a running start at the FDF.'

Soon he will have to deal with Ofcom's recommendations on advertising to children. Is the industry worried about what the regulator will say? ‘I expect it to be robust,' admits Hunt. ‘But we have already come up with very robust proposals ourselves on both advertising content and scheduling that would deliver what the Government wants.'

CV - Julian Hunt

Director of comms, Food and Drink Federation

Editor, The Grocer

Features editor, The Grocer

Deputy editor, Off Licence News

Reporter, rising to news editor, Packaging Week

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