Paul Polman, Nestlé’s American division director will be appointed Unilever’s group chief executive at the end of the year following this week’s announcement that Patrick Cescau is to step down.

Cescau has worked for Unilever for 35 years and said he was leaving with a real sense of pride in what has been achieved, but also great confidence in the company’s ability to pursue the opportunities that lie ahead.

“Four years ago we set out to transform Unilever and to get the business back on track. I believe that phase of work is largely complete, so now is exactly the right time to pass on the baton,” he said.

Polman has worked at Nestlé for the last two years, and spent 26 years at Unilever rival Procter & Gamble, culminating in a four-year stint as group president for Europe.