Steve Murrells 1

Steve Murrells was one of Hilton Foods’ first customers and commercial partners

Former Co-op Group boss Steve Murrells has been appointed as the new CEO of meat processing giant Hilton Food Group.

Murrells will succeed Philip Heffer, who has decided to stand down from the board and step back from running the company after almost 30 years with Hilton Foods, including the past five years as group CEO.

Hilton said Heffer would support the new boss to ensure a smooth handover when Murrells starts in the role on 3 July.

Murrells’ connection to the business dates back almost 30 years, when he was one of Hilton Foods’ first customers and commercial partners at Tesco.

After serving as CEO of Tulip from 2009 to 2012, he was appointed as CEO of Co-op Food, where he oversaw a turnaround, before stepping up as group CEO.

Murrells was also awarded a CBE in the 2022 New Year Honours for services to the food supply chain.

Hilton chairman Robert Watson said: “Steve has an outstanding record as a leader within the food industry, and the Board is confident that his considerable experience will be of huge benefit to Hilton Foods as we take the business to the next stage.”

Murrells added: “Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, I was the meat category director at Tesco when Hilton was pioneering centrally packed meat, and the way that Philip and the team have grown the business since then has been incredible, with 15 years of sensational growth.

“I’ve loved getting to know the business again recently, and what is exciting is that there is so much still to achieve. While Philip is stepping down, he’s not stepping out of the business, and we will really benefit from his support with customer relationships and business development in his new role. I’m looking forward to working with Robert, Philip and the wider team as we take Hilton Foods to the next level and become the international food and supply chain partner of choice.”

Heffer said: “After the work we’ve done to grow Hilton Foods and expand our commercial model over the past five years, this is a good moment to step back from running the business.

“Hilton Foods today is a major international business, with sales and operations across Europe, Asia and the Pacific, offering a broad range of quality products, from meat and seafood to vegan and vegetarian products. Steve was one of our first customers in the 1990s and he has an excellent track record within the food industry.”

Separately yesterday, Hilton reported a 37.5% fall in group profits in the 52 weeks to 1 January 2023 as soaring input costs battered its fish processing business.

Pre-tax profits sank from £47.4m to £29.6m in the year as growth in sales and volumes was overshadowed by “significant” challenges in the UK seafood business