Farmer-owned First Milk has appointed Clive Sharpe as its new chair, effective from 1 February.
Mr Sharpe brings 35 years of experience in food manufacturing to the role. He is currently chairing Peter’s Food and has been chair of Quorn Foods and Burton’s Biscuits.
The move is part of a “leaner and more commercial structure” at the co-operative, which reported operating profits of £1.1m for the first six months to 30 September 2015.
Nigel Evans, First Milk’s interim chair and farmer director, said: “Clive is a highly experienced commercial leader with a track record of leading transformational change across a variety of branded and private label businesses.
“He is highly regarded and well connected across UK retail and has substantial experience as a chairman, executive, and non-executive.”
He added: “This is a key appointment as we implement a leaner and more commercial structure as part of the transformation of First Milk.”
Mr Sharpe is a former non-executive director of Duerr’s Jams and Tangerine Confectionery as well as former chief executive of WT Foods, Golden Wonder and Homepride Foods.
First Milk chief executive, Mike Gallacher, also said: “The business has made rapid progress in difficult circumstances over the last nine months and this appointment, together with accompanying changes in our board structure, will strengthen our co-operative for the long term.”
Over the past months, First Milk has been working to reduce costs, improve quality and drive operational performance as part of a turnaround plan put forward by Mr Gallacher.
Since his appointment in March 2015, Mr Gallacher has helped reduce the co-op’s debt from £60.7m in March 2015 to £39.7m in November 2015. A full strategy review last summer also resulted in the sale of its Glenfield Dairy business in Fife, Scotland, in November 2015.
Mr Sharpe commented: “Mike Gallacher and First Milk Board have set a clear direction for the business, and a huge amount of progress has been made over the last nine months.
“I am attracted by the potential of First Milk and the opportunity to get the company working well for its farmer owners.”