Less than six months after taking on the role on an interim basis Jo Whitfield has been appointed the permanent CEO of Co-op Food. 

It’s a great move for Whitfield who has impressed in the role she assumed in February when predecessor Steve Murrells took the top job at the Co-op.

Whitfield has already set about putting her own stamp on the Co-op Food business, building on its commitment to provenance by pledging to source 100% British fresh meat and announcing trials to develop its wholesale and franchising capabilities.

The Aston University graduate was well received in her new role by colleagues and is well liked and respected by the Co-op’s leadership team and throughout the business.

She enjoys an excellent working relationship with Murrells who did a fine job in returning the previously struggling food business to growth, supported by former CEO Richard Pennycook and Co-op chairman Allan Leighton.

The momentum has continued under Whitfield with food sales growing and Co-op’s overall market has jumped to 6.2% according to the latest 12-week data from Kantar.

With Whitfield’s permanent appointment, the Co-op’s leadership team is starting to have a much more diverse look about it – something that has historically been an issue for the mutual.

She joins deputy chief executive Pippa Wicks, general counsel Helen Grantham and Chief HR Officer Helen Webb on the executive team which now has an equal balance of men and women.

Whitfield herself is passionate about helping women fulfil their potential and supports women both inside and outside the business with their career and personal development.

She trained as a chartered accountant with Ernst & Young before holding positions at Northern Foods, GE and Matalan. The bulk of her retail experience comes from her eight years with Asda where Whitfield held a number of senior roles including finance director for the George clothing brand and most recently vice president, Asda General Merchandise, Asda Money & Asda Mobile.

Although her experience is anchored in finance, she has broadened her experience in areas such as strategy, operations, buying, international and eCommerce, and this mix of skills, coupled with her knowledge of the food sector, will stand her in good stead as she drives the food business forward.

My Move of the Week article is taking a summer break during August but will return in September with a roundup of all the summer comings and goings. Happy holidays!