Former Innocent MD Jamie Mitchell is set to become the new chief executive of Daylesford Organic, The Grocer has learned.

Mitchell officially takes up his role on 4 January although he is already familiarising himself with the company at its head office.

Mitchell left Innocent a year ago to pursue opportunities in private equity, but said the economic climate meant there had not been much activity involving private equity-backed food brands.

He claimed the break from a full-time job had been good because "I enjoy taking time out between gigs" and that he had still been busy, having worked on a consultancy basis for Pret a Manger and been involved with the introduction into the UK of US-based health drink range Neuro. The range is set to officially launch next month. He was excited to be joining Daylesford, as it was "an authentic food brand that reflects on the outside exactly what it is on the inside," he said.

Although he acknowledged the organic category overall was struggling in the recession, Daylesford was doing well, he said.

"I'm a passionate believer in organic food but as a category it is struggling to sell itself to consumers. However Daylesford is about much more than just organic. Its about health, British farming and sustainability. The company has been at the forefront of farm to fork for more than 30 years."

Mitchell said he would aim to use the experience he gained at Innocent to help grow the Daylesford business. He spent three years at the smoothie maker, having joined in 2005 as marketing director.

This week, Daylesford was ordered to pay £90,000 in compensation by Gloucester Crown Court, after a member of staff was killed at its farm in the Cotswolds in June 2007. The man, who had only been working for the company for two months, was crushed under a JCB while trying to collect elderflower for lemonade, after health and safety failures. Mitchell said the incident was "very sad" and improved health and safety measures had since been put in place.