Seven senior managers at The Co-operative Group are to leave the company as the UK retailer restructures its food operations.

The Co-op, the UK's fifth-largest food retailer, has developed a "new operating model" for its grocery business. As a result, seven managers will be leaving The Co-op's food unit. 

A spokesperson said no "customer-facing" roles were involved in the review. The new management structure will be announced next month.

The Co-op's food business is undergoing a period of change, which has come amid weak sales. In September, The Co-op said Tim Hurrell, the head of its food operations, would retire at the end of 2011. Hurrell said it was the right time for a new food chief as The Co-op had completed the integration of UK rival Somerfield, which it acquired in 2008.

Nevertheless, The Co-op's food sales have been lacklustre in recent months. In the 13 weeks to 31 December, like-for-like sales from The Co-op's food stores fell 0.2%, although the retailer pointed to a 3.1% increase in the four weeks to New Year's Eve.

In the six months to 2 July, sales were down 4.6%, which led to a 21% drop in underlying profits from its food stores. Those results prompted chief executive Peter Marks to then describe trading conditions in the UK as "the worst I have seen in 40 years of retailing".