The chief executive of Allied Bakeries is to leave the business – just weeks after parent company Associated British Foods (ABF) declared the UK bakery market “intensely competitive”.

Mark Fairweather has been with the company for 29 years – but his departure follows ABF’s warning that profits at Allied Bakeries, which produces Kingsmill, Burgen, Allinson and Sunblest, would be “lower than last year”.

Sarah Arrowsmith, chief executive of ABF’s grocery division, which produces other brands like Twinings and Ovaltine, will assume control of its bakery division.

Allied Milling and Baking, in which Allied Bakeries sits, has spent heavily on capital investment in recent years from the redevelopment of its bakeries nationwide to NPD, with the introduction of thins and its Great White Kingsmill loaf. However, last year it also announced the closure of its site in Orpington, Bromley because of declining bread sales, while at the same time pumping £8.4m into its Glasgow site on a sandwich thins line.

A spokesman at ABF said: “Allied Milling and Baking Group can confirm that Mark Fairweather is to step down as chief executive officer following the recent conclusion of the company’s strategic investment programme.

Major investment

“Mark has led the Allied Milling and Baking Group as CEO since 2008 and seen through a major investment programme to transform the business’ operational and supply chain footprint, significantly restructuring the organisation’s cost base. During this period, the business also has seen significant investment in the brand, enabling Kingsmill to deliver substantial innovation, bringing new products to the market and strengthening the brand’s position.

“Now that this operational investment programme has concluded, Mark will be stepping aside to enable a new leader to take the business forward. Mark’s successor will be announced in due course. In the interim, Sarah Arrowsmith, chief executive, UK Grocery, will be responsible for the business.”

Arrowsmith added: “Mark has seen through an impressive transformation of the Allied Milling and Baking Group, which is now well placed to meet the demands of the UK bakery market. He has demonstrated great vision, tenacity and skill and moves on with our grateful thanks and our best wishes for his next venture.”

In a pre-close update last month, ABF said: “The UK bakery market remains intensely competitive, with a combination of over-capacity in the industry driving manufacturers towards marginal pricing, and retailers seeking to prove their value credentials in essential shopping items such as bread. 

“As retailers drive for value and range simplification, already tight margins have come under further pressure and Allied Bakeries’ profit will be lower than last year as a result.”

Fairweather joined ABF in 1986 as head miller at Allied’s James Neill Mill, Belfast. He became Allied Mills’ operations director in 1998 before being promoted to managing director Allied Mills. In 2006, he moved to Allied Bakeries as managing director and was appointed CEO, Allied Milling & Baking, two years later.