Nestle executive Stuart Irvine is to become CEO of Australian dairy-to-beer group Lion next year.

Irvine will replace Rob Murray in January. Lion announced in February that Murray, himself a former Nestle executive, would leave the Pura milk and XXXX beer business in early 2013 after over a decade with the company.

Irvine is chief executive of Nestle’s business in Russia and Eurasia. He has worked at Nestle since 1998 and had roles across Europe.

He will join Lion in November as part of a “handover period” with Murray.

Earlier this month, Lion’s owner, Japanese food and drink group Kirin Holdings, said the Australian firm’s net sales fell 4% in the first half of 2012.

Lion’s food and dairy division in Australia continued to face “subdued consumer sentiment”, Kirin said. “Deep retailer discounting on white milk continues to impact the business,” it added, although speciality cheeses South Cape and Tasmanian Heritage saw strong value sales growth over the six-month period.