Premier Foods plc chairman Ronnie Bell has decided to leave the UK food manufacturer after 18 months in the role.

Former Kraft Foods veteran Bell joined Premier in October 2010 just weeks after the Hovis bread and Ambrosia custard maker had reported a slump in half-year pre-tax profits and widening net losses.

As chairman, Bell has overseen a tumultuous period for Premier that included a poor set of trading figures in 2011, the departure of a chief executive and disposals of assets.

However, alongside current chief executive Michael Clarke, another former director at Kraft, Bell has devised a strategy to turn Premier around, which included a focus on eight “power brands”, more disposals, increased marketing expenditure and a new financial package with the company’s lenders.

Premier said today (1 June) that Bell wanted to “focus on his other business and governance commitments”.

Bell said: “I’m delighted that we now have the right management, strategic and financial foundations in place to drive Premier Foods‘ return to growth. Having set a course to turn the company around, I believe it is an appropriate time to step down. I’m confident that with Michael Clarke at the helm, the company has a bright future.”

Premier senior independent director David Beever will become chairman on an interim basis while the company looks to appoint a permanent replacement for Bell.