Peter Harding is the Chief Operating Officer of Lucozade Ribena Suntory Ltd (LRS).
Peter became COO of LRS in January 2014 when the company was formed following the acquisition of Lucozade and Ribena by Suntory Beverage & Food, the Japanese global drinks producer.
He is responsible for all aspects of the company’s operations and in 2013 he oversaw the successful transition of the Lucozade and Ribena brands to new owners Suntory.
Peter is particularly proud of the work the company has done to significantly reformulate all of its iconic brands, removing 50% of sugar from its portfolio. This forms part of the company’s wider health and wellbeing ambition, which sees LRS investing £30m to help the country move more as well as encouraging all staff to live life to the full and make LRS the healthiest place to work.
He is currently Chairman and council member of the British Soft Drinks Association. He is also on the Board of Directors of Barretstown, a charitable organisation which helps children suffering from cancer to rebuild their lives.
Peter is a keen sportsman and has represented Great Britain in his age group in triathlon including the World Ironman Championships in Hawaii. He holds a BA in Economic History from Durham University. He lives with his wife Madeleine and their four children in the UK.
1) Which place or city or country do you most feel at home in?
Norfolk – it’s a home from home. Its stunning beaches, big sky and beautiful countryside have been the setting for many family holidays.
2) What are your proudest achievements?
My four amazing children. Either them or representing Great Britain at the World Ironman Championships in Hawaii! I’m also fiercely proud of working with Barretstown, a charity founded by Hollywood star Paul Newman which helps children suffering from cancer to rebuild their lives.
3) What inspires you?
A company like ours faces so many challenges that it can only prosper with the help of brilliant employees. We are fortunate to have a great breadth of diversity amongst our teams and have talent that is creative, resourceful and entrepreneurial. I’ve been COO for a number of years and yet I’m still inspired by them every day.
4) What has been the biggest obstacle in your career?
The consumer backlash on sugar. Before we began our reformulation, our drinks were forever being (unfairly) highlighted as solely responsible for fuelling the obesity crisis. However, we launched our health and wellbeing plan in 2016 – producing healthier drinks and inspiring people to be active – and turned our big obstacle into a purpose that has inspired the whole company
5) Who has been the biggest influence on your career to date?
Indirectly, Shinjiro Torii. Suntory’s founder was a trailblazer and entrepreneur who built a drinks empire, but remained humble and always strived to contribute to society. What better role model to have.
6) What is the best aspect about your current role?
We have a great opportunity at Lucozade Ribena Suntory to help improve the health of the nation with our health and wellbeing plan. Few other companies would be brave enough to reduce the sugar content of their drinks by 50%. Being part of a company that puts health and exercise at the top of the agenda- including a £30m investment to encourage the nation to move more – is what gets me out of bed every morning.
7) And the worst?
Not having time to do everything we want. I head up a hugely ambitious company with an aspiration to revolutionise soft drinks by bringing new healthier drinks to market and inspiring more people to exercise more often. But this won’t happen overnight and we aren’t the only company that needs to act. It will take time, resource, other companies, industry bodies and government to effect change on the scale we want.
8) What are your long-term goals?
To inspire other businesses to take the same bold moves we have. My ambition is to inspire the great many small and medium-sized enterprises in the country to join us in promoting health, mindfulness and fitness to employees and customers across the country.
9) If you were Prime Minister, what one aspect would you change?
I believe in taking personal responsibility and, as Prime Minister, I would foster through education and action the idea that we all have to manage our individual health and wellbeing. I’d start early by making this a core part of the school curriculum and creating programmes that empower the public to take time to look after themselves and boost their activity levels.
10) If you were marooned on a desert island, which historical figure would you like to spend your time with and why?
Jack Nicklaus – who’s still alive. Not only is he the best golfer in history, he has his own golf course design business. We could create a golf course together and – with all that sand – he could help me practice my bunker shots. Oh, and the great Mahatma Gandhi to help me blissfully meditate the endless hours away!