William Jackson Food Group (WJFG) has appointed James Watson as its new chief executive.

Watson, who was managing director of WJFG-owned Jacksons bakery for four years, has taken the reins following the decision by Norman Soutar to step down after almost 14 years with the business.

WJFG said Soutar was stepping down as part of a long-term succession plan and would remain on the board until May next year.

Watson has worked at WJFG since 2008 and was managing director of Jackson’s bakery and its Aunt Bessie’s business. He became group chief operating officer in 2018. Before joining WJFG he worked for Baxters Food Group and JP Morgan.

Soutar has been with the 168-year-old family business since 2006. In his time, WJFG sold Aunt Bessie’s for £210m and acquired Belazu and Wellocks.

“I am grateful to Norman for everything he has done for the family and the business over the past 14 years, for his commitment to helping us grow, his long-term vision and his determination in good times and tough times,” said WJFG chairman Nicholas Oughtred, great great grandson of founder William Jackson.

“I’m delighted to announce that the board has chosen James Watson as our new chief executive. James has proven himself as an inspirational leader, building strong teams and delivering great results.”

Jackson last year opened a new £40m sandwich bread factory in Corby.