Karen Betts OBE
Chief Executive, Food and Drink Federation
Karen Betts joined the Food and Drink Federation as Chief Executive in December 2021. Prior to this, Karen was the Chief Executive of the Scotch Whisky Association for four years. While she was there, she steered the UK’s largest food and drink export industry through the UK’s departure from the EU, a trade war with the US which targeted Scotch Whisky with import tariffs, and through the COVID-19 crisis and recovery.
She led the industry’s engagement in the UK’s new, independent trade policy and renewed trading relationships with partners around the world to the benefit of Scotch Whisky exports, alongside overseeing a review of the industry’s environmental policies, which drove the agreement of new and stretching industry-wide sustainability targets. And under her leadership, the industry committed to a Diversity and Inclusion Charter and to work together more effectively on drawing a wide of people, with a diverse set of skills and backgrounds, into the industry.
Prior to joining the SWA, Karen was a diplomat in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for 16 years, where she held a variety of posts in London and overseas. Latterly, she was British Ambassador to Morocco and non-resident Ambassador to Mauritania.
Prior to that, Karen was Counsellor to the British Embassy in Washington, and held roles at the UK’s Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels and the British Embassy in Baghdad.
In London, she served in the Cabinet Office and the Joint Intelligence Committee, as well as in several roles in the Foreign Office. Before joining the FCO, Karen was a lawyer at Clifford Chance, working in London and Hong Kong.
She studied law at the College of Law in Guildford and history at St Andrews University.
Karen is an Adviser to the UK Government’s Board of Trade and received an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours in 2022 for her services to international trade.