Cooke, who has been the company’s commercial director for the past 18 months, was formerly Tesco’s head of customer strategy for its convenience foods division.
Ugo Foods said Cooke, who specialises in retail, insight and brand development, had more than 16 years’ experience in the UK food sector, including five years in senior management positions at Tesco.
During her tenure at Ugo Foods, she had lead a significant restructure, won numerous awards, including Business of the Year at the Hertfordshire Business Awards, according to the company.
She also spearheaded the relaunch of award-winning chilled ‘free-from’ brand Ugo Thrive, which Ugo Foods describes as the first ever filled pasta that is free from the top 14 allergens.
Ugo Foods, which was established in 1929, is best known for its Dell’Ugo and Ugo Thrive brands and it said the relaunch of Dell’Ugo in June had enabled it to become the largest fresh pasta brand in the UK, which has also introduced a range of vegan lines in a bid to attract new customers.
Cooke said her practical hands-on food sector experience would fuel Ugo Food Group’s ambitious growth plan for the next three years and help transform the business.
“Ugo Foods remains a totally unique business with an incredible mix of nearly 90 years of family heritage, uncompromising quality values and the ability to respond and innovate beyond any manufacturer I have ever come across in the industry,” said Cooke.
“Our AA+ BRC [British Retail Consortium standard]-rated allergen-free production facilities are leading the way technologically and continuous investment has kept us at the forefront of quality chilled food manufacturing.
“The chilled convenience food category is one of the most exciting and dynamic in the UK food sector. With our significant investment over the coming months, we will be creating opportunities, innovating and forging new levels of growth with key customers.”
Ugo Foods Group chairman Paul Ugo, said: “Myself and the shareholders are delighted that Sophia has taken on the role of CEO, to implement our strategy and vision for the company, which aims to cement us as a key player within the Chilled Foods industry. Her approach, ambition, wealth of experience and network continue to be an invaluable asset to our business.”
Supplying noodles for restaurants in London’s Chinatown district, originally located in Limehouse, then in Soho, helped Ugo Foods experience massive growth in the 1930s and 1940s.