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Premier Foods appoints Geoff Eaton as chief operating officer

By Mike Stones , 03-Oct-2012

Britain’s biggest food manufacturer Premier Foods has appointed Geoff Eaton, formerly ceo of Uniq, as chief operating officer and executive director to “accelerate transformation” within the debt-laden giant.

Eaton, who will report directly to ceo Michael Clarke, will focus on helping the company's leadership team continue to deliver on its divestiture and cost reduction plans.

He will also work on “strategic initiatives” to grow its Power Brands, Clarke’s recovery plan for the firm has been built around eight Power Brands designed to revive the fortunes of the company. Those are

Batchelors, Bisto, Ambrosia, Hovis, Loyd Grossman, Mr Kipling, Oxo and Sharwood's.

Two distinct divisions

Accompanying news of the appointment was the announcement that, in recognition of the different opportunities and challenges facing Premier’s grocery and bread businesses, they will in future be managed as two distinct divisions.

The grocery division will continue to build momentum behind Premier's branded portfolio, which represents 86% of total grocery sales.

In bread, “a more fundamental approach will be taken to help unlock future value and address the category challenges faced by this division”, according to a statement from Premier.

But the firm would continue to preserve “appropriate benefits of scale between the two divisions”, it added.

Premier said it expected to deliver further overhead cost reductions next year as it separates recently divested businesses. Those will be in addition to the £40M savings that will be delivered by the end of 2012.

Clarke said: "We've achieved a great deal so far in 2012 in simultaneously driving growth in our Power Brands while delivering a highly complex restructuring and divestiture programme.

‘Geoff's energy and experience’

“As we accelerate the next stage of our transformation, Geoff's energy and experience will be critical in helping us unlock value in bread and build further momentum in our grocery division. I very much look forward to working with him."

In a statement, Premier added: “Geoff has extensive experience of tackling complex financial and operational restructuring projects and creating value through organic growth. Most recently he was ceo of Uniq, leading a successful turnaround and growth of the company prior to its acquisition by Greencore Group."

Paul Wilkinson, chairman designate of confectioner Thorntons and chair of the Food Manufacturing Excellence Awards judging panel, described it as "a good hire".

"Geoff knows the business pretty well from his experience of the milling and baking scene with Tomkins, which acquired RHM in 1992. He helped in a post acquisition role there and that experience, together with Uniq will be useful in his new role," said Wilkinson.

Eaton’s appointment takes effect from today (October 3).

For Eaton's final thoughts on leaving Uniq, shared with FoodManufacture.co.uk a year ago, click here .

To hear Eaton’s views on the challenges facing the chilled food industry, recorded in this exclusive podcast at Food Manufacture's Business Leaders’ Forum at the Institute of Directors in London earlier this year, click here .

For more breaking news on the fast-moving world of food and drink manufacturing, subscribe to our free newsletter by clicking here .

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