Nestlé is to start the new year with a new unit looking at the world’s largest food maker’s “group strategy and business development”.

Sanjay Bahadur, a 30-year veteran at the Swiss food giant, is to head the new function, which will analyse the performance of the company’s brands and weigh up possible acquisitions.

Bahadur, who joined Nestlé as a management trainee in India in 1982, has, since 2008, been the head of acquisitions and business development at the KitKat and Maggi maker.

“In a period of rapid change in our industry, it will be more important than ever to recognise key trends early and to act on them fast, including but not limited to portfolio adjustments,” Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider said. “Sanjay brings deep operational and financial experience to his new role. He knows that only those strategies succeed that are implemented thoroughly and fast, and he has done a superb job overseeing our recent portfolio adjustments to position the company for higher growth.”

A Nestlé spokesperson said the new unit – to be based in Switzerland – will “encompasses internal opportunities as well as external ones”.

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The spokesperson added: “This newly created function will have a broader scope. For example, the existing Portfolio Strategy and Business Intelligence function will become part of Group Strategy and Business Development and provide analytical and strategic assessments as well as external market analyses and internal portfolio performance reviews. In addition, the new unit … will look after Nestlé’s strategic business partnerships, joint ventures and brand licensing agreements.”

In 2017, Nestlé said it would focus its “capital spending” on “advancing high-growth food and beverage categories such as coffee, petcare, infant nutrition and bottled water”.

Asked if the new unit would focus on those four sectors, the spokesperson said: “The work will not be limited to the mentioned high-growth categories. It can also relate to any other strategic activity of Nestlé.”