Scotland Food & Drink (SF&D) chief executive James Withers is stepping down from his post after nearly 11 years at the helm.
The industry leadership group said he would stay on over the coming months to support its search for a successor and ensure a smooth transition.
It has been a very difficult decision to step down; I still consider it one of the best jobs in the country.”
James Withers, outgoing CEO of Scotland Food & Drink.
SF&D chairwoman Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne said: “James has made a transformational contribution to our organisation and his impact has been felt across the food and drink sector in Scotland.
“When James joined us in 2011, Scotland Food & Drink was still in its infancy and the industry wasn’t always spoken of as a Scottish success story.
“Later this year when James departs, his successor will inherit a strong, well-established organisation, a talented staff body and a sector critical to the future of Scotland’s economy and communities.”
She added: “The board and staff will be very sad to see James depart, but we understand his decision and are very pleased he has agreed to stay and work closely with myself and the board to manage the transition.”
More than a decade ‘gone in a flash’
Mr Withers, 45, said: “It has been a huge privilege to be in this role for over a decade.
“That it has gone in a flash must be a good sign. It has been a very difficult decision to step down; I still consider it one of the best jobs in the country.
“However, it is exciting that someone else will soon have the opportunity to embrace it.”
Mr Withers added: “So many in government and business have been willing to work in partnership with the SF&D team and me to try and build Scotland’s reputation for food and drink, both here and internationally.
“It’s never easy to know when the right time is to step down. But ahead of the development of a new industry strategy towards the end of the year, and with a strong foundation in place, this feels right.
“My successor will inherit an incredibly talented group of staff and committed partners across the private and public sector.
“I am sure a change will bring new opportunities for the organisation as well as me personally.”
Mr Withers, previously chief executive of National Farmers Union Scotland. said he had no firm plans for the future.
“I hope to continue to play a part in Scotland’s economic development story, in the food and drink sector and beyond,” he said, adding: “It remains something I am hugely passionate about.”