Flowers Foods, one of the largest bakery groups in the US, has appointed board director and Unilever executive Terry Thomas to the new position of chief growth officer.

Thomas, who worked for Unilever for more than a decade, has spent three years on the Flowers Foods’ board.

The Nature’s Own brand said Thomas will be “responsible for leading and managing growth initiatives”.

He will also oversee product development, marketing and “customer partnerships”, Flowers Foods said in a statement.

“Terry’s global experience working at a senior level for some of the most respected CPG companies in the world will be invaluable to us as we continue to transform Flowers into a consumer- and brand-centric company,” chairman and CEO Ryals McMullian said.

Thomas joined Unilever in customer development in 2013 after almost seven years at PepsiCo. From March 2022 to August this year, he was the global chief customer officer for Unilever’s personal care business.

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Meanwhile, Heeth Varnedoe, Flowers Foods’ chief operating officer, has also been handed the title of president, a position that McMullian held alongside being chairman and CEO. McMullian, then the company’s chief operating officer, was named chief executive in 2019.

“Congratulations to Heeth on his well-deserved promotion,” McMullian said. “Over the last few years, Heeth has overseen a number of transformative initiatives at Flowers and has proven himself to be an extremely capable senior executive.”

Varndoe joined Flowers in 1990, left the business in 2000 and returned 12 years later. In early 2021, he was named chief transformation officer and was appointed chief operating officer last year.

Earlier this month, the company, which owns brands including Dave’s Killer Bread, booked an 8.8% rise in second-quarter sales to $1.23bn.

In the 12 weeks to 15 July, Flowers Foods’ income from operations was $88.6m, compared to $71.7m a year ago.

The company’s income was $63.8m, up 18.8% on the corresponding period a year earlier.

During Flowers Foods’ last full financial year, which ran to 31 December, the group’s sales increased 11% to $4.81bn. Its income from operations rose 2.8% to $303.2m. Net income grew 10.8% to $228.4m.