The chief executive of Northern Foods has stepped down to take up a senior role at foodservice supplier Brakes Group, just a week after Northern announced plans to merge with Irish ready-meals supplier Greencore.

Stefan Barden, who has also had roles at Unilever, Heinz and retailer Iceland Foods, spent five years at Northern. He will leave on 30 November, the Goodfella’s pizza maker said today (24 November).

Barden will join Brakes in the newly-created role of CEO for its UK operations on 4 January, reporting to group chief executive, Philip Jansen. Brakes, owned by private-equity firm Bain Capital, has operations in Ireland, France and Sweden.

Commenting on his move, Barden said: “This is a great opportunity and I’m very much looking forward to joining the Brakes team. I have been extremely impressed by Philip’s vision and ambition for the group, the quality of the management team, and the attention and support that Bain Capital give the business.”

Meanwhile, Northern has announced that finance director Simon Herrick will replace Barden and become acting chief executive. Financial controller Steve Henderson will take up the role of acting CFO.

It is expected that the new appointments will remain in place leading up to the completion of Northern’s proposed merger with Greencore, which is expected to be finalised during the second quarter of 2011. Herrick is set to become group finance director of the newly-created company, to be called Essenta Foods.

Northern chairman Anthony Hobson said: “The board is grateful to Stefan for his successful leadership of the business over the past four years, which has helped to facilitate the merger with Greencore Group. Simon is well qualified to lead the business through the merger period, ably supported by the strong leaders of our branded and chilled divisions.”