Patrick Coveney, the long-standing CEO of Greencore, is to leave the Ireland-based convenience-foods manufacturer next year.

Coveney, who has been at the helm of the sandwich and salads supplier since 2008, is leaving the London-listed business on 30 March to join SSP Group, a publicly-listed foodservice company serving the global travel industry, also based in the capital.

While Greencore searches for a replacement, Kevin Moore, its chief commercial officer, will immediately assume the role of deputy CEO. Gary Kennedy, the company’s non‐executive chair, will “take a more active role in the business”, and will become executive chair from 31 March.

Coveney has steered Dublin-based Greencore through the worst of the Covid crisis, when demand for the firm’s private-label, and predominately food-to-go products, waned as government-induced lockdowns curtailed demand in the out-of-home channel. He also had to contend with high levels of absenteeism linked to the virus and the closure of a UK plant, before navigating the business through a recovery period as vaccines emerged. And now, the supply chain disruptions and labour shortages impacting the whole food industry are the latest challenges.

In 2019, he instigated the acquisition of salad and chilled-snack maker Freshtime UK, while he controversially sold Greencore’s US operations the previous year to Hearthside Food Solutions.

Coveney will also step down from his role as a director next March. Kennedy said: “On behalf of the board, I would like to express our deep gratitude to Patrick for leading the business for the past 14 years and for transforming Greencore into the UK’s leading convenience food business. We wish him well in the future.”

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Coveney will join SSP on 31 March and will succeed Simon Smith, who announced in July he would leave the business this December.

In a statement put out by SSP, Coveney said: “I am absolutely delighted to be appointed as SSP’s next group CEO as it builds back from the pandemic. The business has a strong board, a highly experienced leadership team and thousands of dedicated colleagues across the world. It also has a clear strategy, deep relationships with client and brand partners, and a robust balance sheet.”

Just Food analysis: New game or more of the same at Greencore post-Patrick Coveney?