Surinder Kumar, chief innovation officer at Wrigley, is to leave the company, the US-based gum giant has announced.

Kumar, who joined Wrigley in 2000, was the company's first innovation chief when it revamped its management team at the start of the decade. He will be succeeded by Rob Peterson, currently vice president of new products and packaging.

"We sincerely appreciate the lasting impact his contributions will have on our business and wish for him the very best in the future," said Bill Wrigley Jr, executive chairman and chairman of the board.

Innovation has been key to Wrigley's growth in the gum category and the company has sped up its new product development in the last year to fend off competition from the likes of Cadbury Schweppes.

In 2007, Wrigley launched products including sugar-free gum 5 in the US and rolled out a wave of new products in the UK, including Extra Fusion.

Peterson, a former Procter & Gamble executive, joined Wrigley's innovation team in 2006. He will spend the next six months working with Kumar to transition responsibilities.

Kumar said: "Rob represents the optimal combination of business acumen, leadership skills, and technical capabilities necessary to take the Wrigley Innovation organization to even greater heights."