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Source: University of Waikato

The man behind some of New Zealand’s well-known brands has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Waikato.

The award is given to a small number of alumni who have achieved significant success in their career and made outstanding contributions to their communities.

Mr Bowler graduated from the University of Waikato with a Bachelor of Management Studies in 1986.

“The Waikato Management School had a great reputation, so starting a Bachelor of Management was an easy choice. Accounting was the path I expected to take with my studies but quickly pivoted to marketing before taking up a graduate role with Unilever New Zealand,” says Mr Bowler.

Renowned as a leader and innovator, Mr Bowler has more than 30 years’ experience in marketing and business leadership spanning consumer-packaged goods, technology, and travel brands, in New Zealand and internationally.

During the 1990s, he led the Cadbury and Air New Zealand international accounts at advertising agencies DDB and Mattingly, before working in the UK’s food sector. On his return to New Zealand he joined New Zealand Dairy Foods Ltd in his first general management role, putting him on a path to a leadership career.

In 2010 he was appointed chief executive of Tourism New Zealand and helped lift the tourism industry’s performance to become New Zealand’s number one export sector.  While leading Tourism New Zealand, Mr Bowler co-founded the New Zealand Story, a platform designed to help New Zealand businesses in all sectors improve their performance in international markets.

In 2016, Mr Bowler returned to the food sector as chief executive of Frucor Suntory. The two-year stint at the packaged beverages company segued nicely into his current position as chief executive of one of New Zealand’s fastest growing food businesses, My Food Bag, where board members include Theresa Gattung, an inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award winner.

An advocate of continuous learning, Mr Bowler graduated from the Stanford Graduate School of Business Executive Programme in 2013. He has continued to give back to the University of Waikato over the years by sharing his leadership expertise with students and, most recently, by chairing the Waikato Management School Business Advisory Board.

He is passionate about building high-performing teams that connect with their purpose.

“One of the things I love about My Food Bag is how connected the team is to our broader purpose of helping New Zealanders to eat and live well,” says Mr Bowler.

In 2018, he was inducted into the New Zealand Marketing Hall of Fame.

Mr Bowler is one of four Distinguished Alumni being recognised by the University of Waikato in 2020, and will receive his award in October, along with professional directors Liz Coutts ONZM and Tania Te Rangingangana, and Māori Land Court judge and Chief Justice of Niue, Judge Craig Coxhead.