Fresh produce group Chiquita Brands International has moved the head of its North American business to lead its operations in Europe and the Middle East.

Brian Kocher, president of Chiquita’s business in North America, will take up the same role for the business in Europe and the Middle East.

Kocher, who joined the group in 2005, replaces Michel Loeb, who will now serve in a “special assignment” to Chiquita chairman and CEO Fernando Aguirre.

“I thank Michel for his leadership during a time when our business in Europe has changed significantly and faced unprecedented headwinds managing the changes of the EU tariff regime,” Aguirre said.

“He led the successful launch of Just Fruit in a Bottle that now forms the basis of our joint venture with Danone, extended our brand presence with consumers into new channels and led the relocation of our European headquarters to Switzerland where he successfully recruited a talented new team.”

Aguirre added: “As president of Europe, Brian will bring the same focus, discipline and execution that he has demonstrated in North America to revitalise our profitability in the region, which is our foremost business priority.”

Joe Huston will replace Kocher as president of Chiquita’s North American business. “Joe has a proven track record in North America. He has been prepared and developed to lead the region through assignments in both our banana and salad operations, and he has the focus and drive to sustain the momentum of our profit improvements,” Aguirre said.