Whittard of Chelsea has hired former TM Lewin international director Mark Dunhill as its new chief executive.

Dunhill took up the post on January 1. He succeeded Sara Halton, who stepped down from the specialist tea and coffee retailer at the end of December “by mutual consent” after more than two years in the post.

Dunhill said: “I am delighted to be joining Whittard. I relish the challenge of working with the talented and committed management team that I have inherited to realise the brand’s considerable potential both in the domestic market and, in particular, for international expansion over the years ahead.”

In his three years at TM Lewin Dunhill was responsible for expanding the fashion retailer internationally. He oversaw the opening of 50 stores outside the UK and launched into 11 new markets.

Robert Fulford, investment director at Whittard’s private equity owner Epic, said: “In 2013 Whittard made significant progress in profitability, which is a reflection of the major contribution Sara Halton has made to the business since June 2011.

“We are excited by the opportunities for developing the Whittard brand and footprint internationally and look forward to working with Mark and his team.”

In the year to December 29, 2012, Whittard recorded £1.2m EBITDA growth before exceptional items to £1.4m.