Fruit and juice supplier Orchard House has hired former Premier Foods boss Gavin Darby as chairman to bolster its growth under new ownership.

The producer of fresh fruit drinks, prepared fruit and fruit-based desserts has bought in Darby following its acquisition by private equity investor Elaghmore from Hain Celestial in January.

Darby will work with Elaghmore and the Orchard House management team to grow the business, primarily through NPD, unlocking manufacturing efficiencies and growing its customer base.

Darby was previously CEO of Premier Foods for six years until 2019, leading its turnaround efforts to drive the company back into branded growth.

He is currently chairman of London’s largest food distribution charity, The Felix Project, and was previously president of the Food & Drink Federation. He also previously spent 15 years at The Coca-Cola Company and 10 years at Vodafone in senior positions, working across Europe, Africa, India, and China.

“We see the appointment of Gavin as a significant step in our growth plans for Orchard House,” said Elaghmore Partners co-founder Andy Ducker. “He has a wealth of industry knowledge and experience that makes him the ideal person to lead the business forward and extend Orchard House’s position as a market leader.”

Orchard House and its associated brands supply retailers, on-the-go food outlets, foodservice providers and manufacturers throughout the UK, with clients including Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Pret a Manger, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

The Corby-headquartered supplier employs around 1,000 people, and turns over more than £130m annually.

Hain acquired Orchard House from Wellness Foods in December 2015 as part of a drive to make its portfolio healthier. However, the US food group sold the business as its focus shifted back to its domestic North American market.

Darby said: “Orchard House boasts an impressive list of clients and products and, with Elaghmore’s support, is poised for a new chapter of growth.

“As we look beyond Covid-19 and Brexit, I see exciting opportunities for the business, particularly in developing and expanding Orchard House’s on-the-go fruit and beverage range. We will continuously strive to offer our customers the best service and quality with investment in people, technology, and processes. I look forward to working closely with Elaghmore and the Orchard House team.”