Ashley Hicks

A former Tesco director has been appointed MD of Kettle Chips owner Kettle Foods.

Ashley Hicks, most recently commercial director of Tesco Hungary, is to replace outgoing Kettle boss Dominic Lowe, who is retiring after four years as managing director.

Hicks, who takes up the role on 31 August, has been with Tesco for about five years and has also been category director for the retailer’s impulse, pharmacy, and baby & beauty categories in the UK. Before joining Tesco he worked in sales at Mars Confectionery.

Lowe joined Kettle in 2011 following its acquisition by US snack food giant Diamond Foods from private equity firm Lion Capital for $615m. He had spent the previous eight years at Cadbury, where he was MD of Green & Black’s before joining Kettle.

“After four enjoyable and satisfying years helping to develop the Kettle Foods business, I feel that now is the right time to hand over the reins to someone with a fresh perspective,” said Lowe. “Ashley brings exceptional experience to continue to grow the Kettle brand in both the UK and Europe.”

Under Lowe, Kettle has increased its international sales volumes by 80%. He oversaw a £7m investment from Diamond Foods for expansion of the plant and new staff facilities in 2012, and this year led Diamond Foods’ acquisition of a majority interest in vegetable chips manufacturer Yellow Chips.

Kettle last month told The Grocer the UK crisps and snacks market had continued to be “extremely fierce” in the past year in terms of promotional activity and the battle for shelf space.

Sales of the brand fell 6.4% by volume and 3.3% by value to £97.1m in the 12 months to 28 February 2015 [IRI], though Kettle said Nielsen data for the four weeks ending 18 July showed a 5.9% year-on-year hike in value sales.