Dairy industry stalwart and Arla UK MD Ash Amirahmadi is to leave the supplier at the end of July to take up the helm at Young’s Seafood and Karro owner Sofina Foods Europe.
Amirahmadi has worked at Arla in a variety of roles for almost two decades. He was appointed MD of the dairy co-op’s UK arm in 2018.
He will take over in August as CEO of Sofina Foods Europe from Michael Latifi, who has led the Canadian protein giant’s European business since 2021 – shortly after it acquired Young’s and Karro’s then-parent Eight Fifty Food Group from its private equity owner Capvest.
Latifi remains the founder, chairman and CEO of parent company Sofina Foods Inc.
Amirahmadi – who is also the current chair of the boards of both Dairy UK and the IGD – will be replaced as Arla UK MD by Bas Padberg, the VP of Arla Foods Southeast Asia.
Arla credited Amirahmadi with continuing “the positive growth journey” of its biggest market into a €3bn business, through “significantly improved sales” of key brands such as Cravendale, Arla Protein, Lurpak, Anchor and the Starbucks chilled drinks range.
He was an “integral profile and leader in our UK business, and we are sad to see him go”, said Arla’s executive VP for Europe Peter Giørtz-Carlsen.
“I want to thank him for his service to Arla and our farmers during his five years as head of Arla UK. He has led our UK business and organisation through a period with many disruptions like Brexit, the pandemic and inflation in recent years, and has established Arla as a leader in sustainability in the UK food industry,” Giørtz-Carlsen added.
“Perhaps his greatest achievement is that he leaves behind a strong team and a talented organisation that has been part of creating a leading food business, so the future is bright for Arla in the UK. Our strategy is a winning one and I have confidence in the next generation of leaders to steer Arla through the next chapters of our UK story. We wish Ash all the best in his new job.”
Amirahmadi said leaving Arla had been a “difficult decision” after a “joyful” 20 years.
“I complete my time both with a sense of sadness and pride,” he added. “I will miss our farmers, our people and the deep friendships I have developed. It is people, relationships, and values that make organisations special, and the cooperation between our farmers and our colleagues gives us the unique culture of Arla.”
He described the Sofina role as “a big one and a different challenge, which is what I now need in my career”.
Padberg will officially take over in January, with Giørtz-Carlsen maintaining the executive leadership of Arla’s UK business “in close collaboration with the strong UK leadership team of Arla UK” during the interim.
He joined Arla in 2014 from Royal Friesland Campina to become MD of Arla’s business in the Netherlands, Belgium and France – which he turned into the fastest-growing branded market in Europe.
Giørtz-Carlsen described Padberg as a “highly trusted leader in Arla with a long track record of building and sustaining a strong people-focused culture”.
Commenting on Amirahmadi’s appointment, Sofina’s Latifi said he would “lead the way in developing a more sustainable supply chain, capable of producing great tasting, affordable and high-quality products for consumers and greatly contribute to our vision”.