Smithfield Foods has announced CEO Larry Pope is to retire from the US pork processor at the end of the year.

President and COO Ken Sullivan is to replace Pope, who has spent nine years at the helm of the business. Sullivan, who has worked for Smithfield since 2003, was named president and COO earlier this year.

Pope oversaw the sale of Smithfield to Chinese group Shuanghui International - which has since renamed itself WH Group - two years ago.

He said the planned change came "at a time of strength and growth for Smithfield".

"2014 and 2015 have been the two best years in Smithfield's history for financial performance and I believe the company is primed for ongoing success. Since February, the Smithfield family has been hard at work implementing our One Smithfield initiative aimed at solidifying the company's position as a global leader in branded packaged meats," Pope said.

Sullivan, who held accounting and finance roles including CFO before becoming Smithfield's president and COO, added: "We have a strong leadership team in place with a shared vision and commitment to continue our evolution as a consumer packaged goods company."