Dairy Crest has hired former Mars executive Martyn Wilks as executive managing director of its foods division.

The UK dairy group said Wilks will replace Peter Thornton, who will leave the company in March "by mutual agreement".

Wilks, 49, was most recently president of Mars' snackfood business in the US. He spent 20 years at the company and also led its French operations.

"Martyn has a proven track record at a very senior level within a major international food group," said Dairy Crest chief executive Mark Allen. "This will be invaluable as we continue to develop our strong brand portfolio and build our market position in Europe following the acquisition of St Hubert."