After a rocky 2007, Kingsmill manufacturer Allied Bakeries has kicked off the new year with three new appointments.

The changes have been made by sales director Martin Brewis a year after he took up his role.

Ann-Marie Perkins,

previously business unit director for multiple grocery at RHM Culinary Brands, has been given the job of customer director for Tesco and Asda.

James Morton, previously business unit director at Pernod Ricard, has become customer director for Sainsbury's. Peter Tichbon, former director of independent sales at Palmer and Harvey McLane, joins the team as field sales director. In November, Associated British Foods - Allied's parent company - admitted the division, whose brands include Allinson and Sunblest, was loss-making.

Poor sales at the beginning of 2007 and the rising cost of wheat flour had been a drain on Allied's profitability, it said.

Despite a £14m relaunch of Allied Bakeries' flagship Kingsmill brand, Kingsmill sales dipped below that of some supermarket own-label brands for the first time last September.

However, a combination of price increases, higher volumes and better operating efficiency led to an improving performance in the second half of 2007.

"The customer-focused approach they appear to be taking looks like good news but I'm not sure it will relieve Allied's strategic issues," said Martin Deboo, analyst at Investec.

"The bread market is in tough times and there is only room for two brand leaders - Warburtons and Hovis."

The finances of Allied were too deeply buried in ABF to know what was going on at the moment, he said.

"We believe Allied will be sold at some point, but these appointments could signal investment."