Neil Hodding, the head of Cereal Partners’ operations down under, is returning home to head up the UK arm of the Nestlé-General Mills joint venture.

After spending almost three years leading the Oceania business, Hodding will take up the position of regional director for the UK, Ireland and Nordics on 2 April.

Cereal Partners, which makes brands such as Shredded Wheat, Cheerios and Shreddies under the Nestlé banner, said Hodding had a rich international background and knowledge that made him ideally suited to the new role.

Before leading the Oceania business, where he is credited with transforming profitability, Hodding spent four years in Asia setting up Cereal Partners’ operations in China.

He has worked at Cereal Partners since its formation in 1990 and has held various commercial and managerial positions in Switzerland and the UK.

Hodding will take over from Phil Ruebotham, who is retiring after nine years at the helm of the UK and Ireland business.

Cereal Partners said Ruebotham had overseen a major shake-up of production and delivered substantial growth in sales and profits during his tenure.

However, the performance of leading Cereal Partners brands has been mixed over the past two years. Shredded Wheat sales dropped by 3.5% last year to £40.8m after falling by 10.3% the year before although Shreddies sales grew by 4.8% in 2011, after falling by 7% the previous year [SymphonyIRI 52w/e 5 November 2011, 52w/e 9 October 2010].

Cereal Partners has invested in advertising to encourage consumers back to its big brands. This week, it kicked off a TV campaign that will compare the health value of its cereals with other breakfasts.