Chris Thomas has left Bakkavör to take the helm at Adelie Foods as it sets out its stall to become the country's biggest food-to-go supplier.

Thomas, who had been Bakkavör's MD for six years, replaces Bill Hazeldean, Adelie's acting CEO since September 2008.

His role as head of the Duke Street Capital-owned company will be to unite its recent acquisitions - Buckingham Foods, Thomas Food Group, Food Partners, Superior Food Group and Brambles Foods - under one banner.

To date, the companies, which have a combined turnover of £230m, have been operating as independent units.

"I'm the first Adelie CEO with the remit to pull together the separate strands of the business and run them as one entity," he said. "The task now is to work out how to link their relative strengths together and deliver synergies."

One area of focus would be distribution and operations, said Thomas, adding that staff levels would also be assessed, though this was not his "main focus".

Recent TNS figures showed food-to-go sales had fallen 1.6% in volume over the last year. But Thomas said he was confident the market was poised for long-term growth.

"We've got to be mindful of the recession, and be cost-effective for customers," he said. "But the long-term trend towards convenience means that in the long-term this is a growing market. Summer matters, too. A good summer is massively important to food-to-go."

Substantial investment in research was planned in order to keep the business innovative, he added. "As the only sizeable group that focuses solely on food-to-go, we should be able to offer real market insight."

It was the scale of the task at Adelie that tempted him from Bakkavör, said Thomas. "It's an exciting role," he said. "There's the challenge of bringing businesses together in a market with serious growth potential, with momentum behind this from the Duke Street backing."

Adelie is the second-largest sandwich supplier in the UK, behind Greencore.