Wenche Marshall Foster, chairwoman and chief executive of Perrier Vittel UK and probably the best known figure in her industry, is leaving the company in December.
Marshall Foster has been with Perrier for almost 25 years and is not thought to be looking for a permanent job.
She joined in the early Seventies, when Perrier sold less than 500,000 bottles a year. Now it sells about 100 million bottles a year. She assumed her present role in 1985, and in 1995 was appointed chairwoman of the Natural Mineral Water Association.
Marshall Foster will be replaced by Nikita Droin who heads Perrier Vittel operations in Brazil.
Marshall Foster is credited with steering Perrier through one of its worst brand crises when 40 million bottles were withdrawn in 1990, following the discovery that some Perrier bottles abroad had been tainted with benzene (though it was later discovered that the bottles had not been contaminated at source). Her handling of the crisis, particularly her decision to take the brand off the shelves in the UK as soon as the story broke, is often cited as a textbook example of how to deal with such scares.
She is also credited with introducing flavoured mineral water, like the lemon-flavoured Perrier with a Twist water, into a staid market.
Following Perrier’s purchase by Nestlé in 1993, the Vittel brand was brought into the Perrier portfolio where it joined the core brand and the Buxton brand, which became part of the company in the Eighties. Perrier Vittel now claims Buxton is the leading British mineral water, while Vittel is the fastest growing mineral water in the UK.