Barden, who has led Northern Foods for four years, will step down from his post next Tuesday (November 30) leaving finance director Simon Herrick to lead the firm as acting ceo as it prepares to merge with rival Greencore.
Should the merger progress to completion, Simon Herrick will then become group finance director of Essenta Foods, reporting to new chief executive Patrick Coveney (who currently runs Greencore).
Barden said it had been a “privilege” to lead Northern Foods over the past four years and that the proposed merger represented a “great result” for customers, retailers, the food industry and shareholders.
Barden, who will report to Brakes Group chief executive Philip Jansen and takes up the newly-created position of UK chief executive in the New Year, has been credited with leading a strong operational turnaround at Northern Foods.
But he has also courted controversy by closing down or mothballing three sites in the last three years after failing to agree mutually satisfactory terms with the supermarkets.
Brakes, which is owned by US private equity firm Bain Capital, said Barden's appointment would enable group chief operating officer Ian Goldsmith to focus on building the firm's international operations.
With a turnover of more than £2.6bn, Brakes Group is a leading supplier to pubs, restaurants, hotels, schools, hospitals, contract caterers and other foodservice customers in the UK, Ireland, France and Sweden.
City: Northern/Greencore merger synergies are 'compelling'
As Barden's departure was announced, Panmure Gordon analyst Damian McNeela issued a note arguing that the potential synergies arising from the merger of Northern Foods and Greencore were “compelling” and “deliverable”.
He added: “The newly formed Essenta will have a much more balanced exposure to the major retailers which we believe should be welcomed.
“The core categories of ‘Chilled to go’ and ‘Chilled for later’ have been performing well in the UK for both Northern and Greencore and we would expect this momentum to continue, which is encouraging and should allow the companies to offset input cost inflation pressures.”