The Co-operative Group food retail division chief executive Tim Hurrell is to step down from his role at the end of the year.

Hurrell, who is retiring, joined The Co-operative Group in 2007 after the retailer acquired United Co-operatives, where he was general manager of the food division.

He has headed up the company’s food division since the takeover.

Hurrell is credited with steering the Co-op’s food output through a major period of change, including the 2009 acquisition of Somerfield, a takeover which made the retail group the UK’s fifth largest food retailer.

He said: “Now that the integration of Somerfield into the group is complete, I believe the time is right to hand over the reins to someone who can oversee the next phase of development.”

Commercial director of food retail Sean Toal has been appointed acting chief executive with immediate effect while the company seeks a permanent replacement for Hurrell.