JO WHITFIELD co-op web

Jo Whitfield founded the Grocery Girls network in 2019 to help women in the food industry further successful careers

Co-op Food CEO Jo Whitfield will take a four-month career break later this year to support her family.

Whitfield will step back from her role in May and said the move was about helping her family during a period when her two teenage sons will be preparing for and taking key academic exams.

Group CEO Steve Murrells will oversee the day-to-day running of the food business, which encompasses 2,600 stores and the Nisa retail group it took over in 2018.

“I always knew that this year would be a big year with my boys undertaking key exams. We decided, as a family, that in order to prepare for the inevitable pressure and emotional turmoil that would involve, that when the time came I would look to spend more time with them to ease the challenge,” said Whitfield.

“I can take this time away reassured by the knowledge we have a strong food leadership team who will keep moving our Co-op forward, working with support and guidance from Steve Murrells, our Co-op CEO.”

Murrells added: “We will miss Jo and wish her and her family well over the coming months.”

Whitfield joined the Co-op as retail finance director in 2016 before moving to her current role in 2017. Before joining the Co-op she spent eight years at Asda in a number of different leadership positions, including VP of George operations and VP of Asda general merchandise, money and mobile.

At the Co-op she has played a pivotal role in the Nisa takeover and in 2019 she launched Grocery Girls – a network aimed at arming women in the industry with the tools they need to further successful careers.

Whitfield’s career break comes at a time of wider change among the senior leadership at Co-op and Nisa. Last month it was announced that Nisa CEO Ken Towle was leaving to become retail director at Asda. His role is being filled by Co-op chief commercial officer Michael Fletcher.