Premier Foods has appointed Coca-Cola veteran Ian Deste as its new group sales director as it looks to rebuild fragile relationships with its key customers.

Deste joins Premier Foods after 20 years at Coca-Cola Enterprises, ­including nine as a member of the GB board. Most recently, he was vice-president, sales and customer development.

Prior to this he held other senior positions in sales, marketing and communications at the group, including head of corporate affairs and marketing director. In his early career, Deste worked in the beer and ­tobacco industries at Grand Met Brewing and British American Tobacco.

Premier's recently-appointed CEO, Mike Clarke, said Deste's key strength was his "track record in building strong and enduring customer relationships" a priority for the company, whose high-profile pricing spat with Tesco cost it £10m after the retailer temporarily delisted a quarter of its branded products earlier this year.

Deste's expertise would be "of enormous value to Premier Foods," he added. "I know Ian has the skills and the motivation needed to help drive our business forward."

Deste left Coca-Cola Enterprises in April following a restructuring of the group after it sold its North American operations back to Coca-Cola. He joins Premier Foods on 19 September, replacing Ian York, who The Grocer revealed earlier this month was leaving at the end of the year to pursue "exciting new opportunities".

Deste was a key member of Coca-Cola Enterprises' top team during a highly successful period for the company. In 2009, Coca-Cola became the first brand to hit £1bn in annual UK grocery sales [Nielsen 52w/e 26 December 2009]. By this time, its Diet variant alone had become almost twice as big as Pepsi.

"I am delighted to be joining Premier Foods at such a key time as we aim to grow sales in a challenging consumer environment," Deste said. "I'm thoroughly looking forward to working with the team to help build its stable of great British brands."