Peter Aldis has been appointed to replace Barry Vickers as CEO of health foods group NBTY Europe.

Vickers is to remain on the company’s board, which owns Holland & Barrett, Nature’s Way and GNC, in an advisory capacity after Aldis was promoted from MD on Wednesday. Aldis started his career at Holland & Barrett in 1990 as an area manager. He was appointed to commercial director in 1998 and rose to become managing director of the group in 2003.

As MD, Aldis was the driving force behind last month’s acquisition of Julian Graves, which owns stores selling natural foods, nuts, seeds and snacks. He was also responsible for developing the company’s retail commercial strategy and new store development. He told The Grocer his plan was to secure the group’s position as a “dominant force in health food retailing” and was optimistic about the company’s prospects despite the economic downturn.

“It’s an exciting time,” he said. “We are looking to continue the expansion plans that we have accelerated over the past year with the Julian Graves acquisition. “We’ve got just short of 1,000 stores in the UK, Ireland and Holland. The target is to add another 50 stores in 2009.”

Plans to franchise the brand globally are also in the pipeline, he added. “A year ago we appointed a global franchising manager. We signed contracts in Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates and South Africa and the first three stores will open in Durban in October 2008,” he said. “We are hopeful other regions we have signed up will be opening stores soon.”

Holland & Barrett also plans to kick off a year-long national television advertising campaign this month, which will focus on price and advice.

“We are exceptional in terms of what we can offer and the advice our staff can give. We want to advertise the fact that we know what we are talking about, as well as price,” he said. NBTY Group owns 544 Holland & Barrett stores in the UK and Ireland, 31 GNC stores and 350 Julian Graves stores in the UK.