Having taken on the role of interim chief executive of Co-op Food six months ago, Jo Whitfield now has been appointed on a permanent basis.

It is 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.

She has already started 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.

“Whitfield is passionate about helping women fulfil their potential and supports them both inside and outside 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 chief executive Richard Pennycook and Co‑op chairman Allan Leighton.

The momentum has continued under Whitfield. Food sales have grown and Co-op’s overall market share increased to 6.2% according to the latest 12-week data from Kantar.

Diverse leadership

jo whitfield

Co-op food chief executive Jo Whitfield

Whitfield has already set about putting her own stamp on the Co-op Food business, building on its commitment to provenance

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

“She has broadened her experience in areas such as strategy, operations, buying, international and ecommerce”

She trained as a chartered accountant with Ernst & Young before holding positions at Northern Foods, GE Capital and Matalan.

The bulk of her retail experience comes from her nine years with Asda.

Whitfield held a number of senior roles at the grocer including finance director for the George clothing brand and, most recently, vice-president of Asda general merchandise, Asda Money and Asda Mobile.

Although her experience is anchored in finance, she has broadened her experience in areas such as strategy, operations, buying, international and ecommerce.

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.

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

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