UK and Dutch meat giant Vion Food Group has suffered its second high-profile departure this year.

Pork boss Bill Thurston has left to "pursue other career opportunities" in the food industry after three years as managing director of Vion's pork business unit.

His exit follows the departure of Dave Fleetwood, category managing director for fresh pork in February.

Before joining Vion, Thurston held several senior roles in the food industry, including group company director of Dutch bakery group CSM, managing director of Arkady Craigmillar and senior vice-president of Dawn Foods.

He made the move to Vion a year before the group's takeover of Grampian Food Group in the summer of 2008, which resulted in a complex integration process for the pork unit. Last year, Thurston also had to manage the integration of Vion's convenience business unit (sausages and sliced cooked meats) with fresh pork and bacon to create "one cohesive unit".

"Bill has made a significant contribution to the development of the pork business unit following the acquisition of the Grampian business in 2008," said Vion corporate affairs director Alasdair Cox. "We would like to thank him for his significant contribution to the business and to wish him every success for his future."

Vion released "very encouraging" UK results last month, with performance ahead of target.

UK sales were up 60% to 2.4bn in 2009 as the full effect of the Grampian Country Foods acquisition set in.

The results also revealed that sales of pork had benefited during the economic downturn, as shoppers looked for good-value meat in a bid to balance the household budget.

But it wasn't all good news for the pork business. Vion said that it had come under pressure from the rising costs of raw materials and pig prices.

Higher prices for imported materials due to the weak sterling exchange rate had also affected the business, it added.