UK dairy co-operative First Milk has appointed ex-Mars exec Mike Gallacher its new CEO.

Gallacher has held a series of senior leadership positions with Mars Inc, most recently as UK managing director for Mars Petcare. He replaces Kate Allum, who First Milk confirmed this week had asked to step down from the role. Gallacher takes up the post on Wednesday (18 March).

First Milk chairman Sir Jim Paice MP said: "Mike has all the attributes to put our business back where we want it to be. He has considerable leadership qualities, has turned around businesses in different geographies, and has experience in some of our key export markets."

Allum became chief executive in 2010 but has presided over an under-pressure business in recent quarters.

In January, First Milk deferred payments to farmers and increased the amount it asks members to invest in the business to bolster cash flow hit by a slump in commodity prices.

The move prompted fears over the future of First Milk, although the co-op has insisted the business is "very safe".