Coles had been working as a consultant to The Original Factory Shop prior to his appointment. He previously worked at Asda for 15 years, where he was responsible for acquisitions in the south of England.
At the beginning of the year, The Co-op Group set up its own food property division headed by property director David Roberts.
The division is separate from The Co-operative Estates, which runs the property operations of its pharmacy, finance and travel businesses, as well as land development and property investment.
In his new position, Coles will head a six-strong team of surveyors, who will look for potential outlets across the UK, including Northern Ireland, where the group has only a small presence.
The first priority would be to implement a new acquisition process and strategy, Coles said.
"We could be looking at new builds, existing opportunities or even kiosks in forecourts. We are actively searching for new outlets, whether they are existing properties or new development opportunities."
The retailer's flexibility meant it could spread the net wide, he added. "One of the great things about The Co-operative Food is the variety of store sizes, from 3,000 sq ft to 20,000 sq ft, and the range of formats we operate, in rural, suburban, town and city centre locations. "
The Co-op Group currently has around 3,000 food stores nationwide.