Lindsey Pownall, the chief executive of Samworth Brothers, has reportedly decided to step down from the top job at the food group.

According to reports in the Leicester Mercury she has decided to take early retirement, after four years in the role and 20 with the company, and will be replaced on 1 January 2016 by Alex Knight, a longstanding adviser to the Melton-based food manufacturer.

The announcement of her departure comes in the same month as British Baker exclusively revealed that Paul Tripp, the highly influential managing director of Soreen, was to leave the business.

Samworth Brothers reported a £837m turnover last year – more than 5% up on the previous year. Its brands include Ginsters, Dickinson & Morris pork pies, Walkers pork pies and Walkers sausages. It produces sandwiches, ready meals, pork pies, desserts and cakes for supermarkets including Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Waitrose and Tesco.

Knight said: “I have worked with many great businesses and organisations in my career, but Samworth Brothers has always stood out because of its unique ethos, strong values and its commitment to a long-term view.”

Pownall is relocating to the Lake District, but will continue to advise the Samworth board.

She added: “Alex is a brilliant replacement for me. We have found someone who can relate to running a family business. He has his own consultancy business and a history of working with lots of big businesses around the world.

“Continuity is everything and I have used him extensively, particularly in the last four years, in helping me make our various companies work more collaboratively. The changes the company has seen have been as much his as mine.”