Hovis and Mr Kipling owner Premier Foods’ chief financial officer quit unexpectedly yesterday for “personal reasons”, with a replacement quickly announced.

The departure of Mark Moran emerged yesterday, with Alastair Murray appointed as his replacement, taking up an executive director and chief financial officer role, effective from 30 September. Murray was recently group finance director of Dairy Crest Group.

According to a statement from Premier, Moran had been asked by CEO Gavin Darby and the board of directors to commit at least the next three years to the company - a commitment he was unable to make. He will remain in his post until 30 September.

Moran commented: “I’m proud of what we’ve been able to achieve so far in putting Premier Foods back on a road to growth. My decision to leave is entirely personal and I wish Gavin and the company all the best for the future.”

Darby said: “Alastair is an excellent addition to the team. His extensive strategic, commercial, financial and consumer branded experience will be invaluable as we continue our journey to transform the company and drive further growth.”

Premier’s troubled Hovis business has recently been embroiled in a trade union dispute at its Wigan site, which had led to strike action, although a third week of strikes averted this week following a deal with the BFAWU. It also lost a contract to supply lines into Tesco Express stores earlier this month, to rival Kingsmill.