Dutch retail giant Ahold has announced changes to the structure of its Albert Heijn executive team in a bid to speed up the expansion of the European chain.

A spokesperson for Ahold told just-food the new team will focus on building Albert Heijn in the Netherlands and in new markets including Belgium and Germany.

"A few years ago, we made an extra level in our organisation to facilitate growth and then we started growing with all kinds of activities, all Albert Heijn-related. When we concluded that the Albert Heijn brand was strong enough to grow in other markets, we concluded that we should have one team on a European level that would coordinate all activities related to the brand," he said.

The retailer opened its first store in Belgium in March last year, a franchise outlet under the Albert Heijn banner. It also plans to move into Germany this year.

As part of the changes to the team, Sander van der Laan, COO of Ahold's operations across Europe, has been named CEO of the Albert Heijn chain. He will combine the two roles.

Albert Heijn general manager Cees van Vliet has been appointed EVP of retail operations. Casper Meijer, executive VP for format and merchasing at Ahold US, will take up the role of executive EVP of merchandising for Albert Heijn.

The role of EVP for marketing and format is expected to be filled shortly, the retailer said.

Albert Voogd, EVP of new markets, will continue to lead the chain's "strategic initiatives in adjacent markets" and the roll out of the new format of Albert Heijn To Go.

"The Albert Heijn brand plays a crucial role in the growth of the business in Ahold Europe, the company said. "By changing the structure at the top of the organisation and appointing new leadership, we are putting this business in a more central position to the future growth of Ahold in Europe"