Brakes has been on the lookout since August for a new figurehead to drive its £2bn UK business and Barden's appointment comes just a week after Northern announced plans to merge with chilled food giant Greencore Group. He will leave Northern next week and starts at Brakes on 4 January.
Northern's finance director Simon Herrick will assume the role of acting chief executive, with financial controller Steve Henderson filling in as finance chief.
Northern said in a statement this week it expected the appointments to remain in place until the merger's completion in the second quarter of next year. Herrick is set to become group finance director of the combined business, Essenta Foods, with Greencore chief executive Patrick Coveney the new Essenta CEO.
Brakes group chief executive Philip Jansen said the capture of Barden would give the UK business dedicated leadership and enable group chief operating officer Ian Goldsmith to focus on building international operations.
Speaking exclusively to The Grocer, Barden said it was time for him to step back from the Northern/Greencore integration and focus on his vision for foodservice in the new role.
"At Northern Foods we looked at how to break the mould and do things differently within foodservice through our contracts with British Airways and Costa Coffee. What drives me is my passion for the food industry and how to give consumers better-tasting food that is healthier and cheaper, so this role resonated," he said.
Barden, a former McKinsey management consultant, added that the strong cultural fit of the Bain Capital-backed company was another big draw. "It's got a very good team who are driving strong growth in the business so this is not a turnaround as perhaps Northern Foods was, this is taking a great business and making it even better," he said.