He will be replaced by Darby next month (4 February) just 18 months after joining the company to reduce its mounting debt.
Darby, a former marketing director at Coca-Cola, will be tasked with continuing Premier Food’s growth strategy around its eight power brands including Hovis, Bisto, Batchelors and Mr Kipling.
He was previously chief executive at Cable & Wireless where he is said to have turned round the struggling telecomms firm before negotiating its sale to Vodafone Group last April. He has also held senior roles at Vodafone and spent 15 years at Coke.
David Beever, chairman of Premier Foods, says: “I am delighted to welcome Gavin Darby to Premier Foods. His strong fast-moving consumer goods background and management track record make him the ideal candidate to lead the company. The board very much looks forward to working with Gavin to continue driving sustainable profitable growth at Premier.”
He adds Clarke and his senior team had done a “first-class” job in stabilising the business, strengthening its balance sheet, divesting non-core businesses and “generating momentum.”
Clarke will remain with the company until mid-2013 to oversee the transfer.
He joined the business in 2011 and oversaw the sale of a number of brands including Branston pickle and Harltey’s jam as it looked to pay-off its debts following a decade-long period of acquisitions.
Darby adds: “I am very excited to be taking on this role. Although markets remain difficult, I look forward to working with the team to develop and grow the company’s power brands in the coming years. Premier Foods has great potential and I fully intend to invest a significant personal sum in the shares of the company after the full year results are published in February.”