Embattled poultry producer Bernard Matthews has taken another step in its turnaround plan by appointing a new chief executive.

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The Great Witchingham-based company has recruited Rob Burnett from Hain Daniels Group as it looks to steer the business onto a firmer financial footing.

Mr Burnett has spent 12 years at the helm of Hain Daniels – formerly S Daniels – which owns Fakenham-based meat free food producer Linda McCartney, the New Covent Garden Soup Company, Johnson’s Juice and Sunpat.

It comes after Bernard Matthews’ executive chairman David Joll said the business would battle back into the black after posting a £20.3m loss for last year’s trading.

The poor financial performance was sparked by a double blow in the shape of high feed costs and demand from supermarkets to drive down prices.

Mr Burnett, who will take up his new role at the EDP Top100 company on June 30, said: “I am excited to be joining a big brand with the reach of Bernard Matthews and the potential to reinvigorate it to support our valuable customers.”

Before Hain Daniels, Mr Burnett held sales and general management roles with Albert Fisher, including managing director for the seafood division and group commercial director

Mr Joll added: “We are delighted to have Rob joining us to continue and accelerate the recovery of our business which is well underway.”

Last year Bernard Matthews announced that it had enlisted help from turnaround specialist Rutland Partners, which ploughed £23.5m into the business in exchange for a substantial equity stake.

The company has also looked to drive down costs and restructure parts of the group leading to a reduction of more than 400 staff – although the majority of the job losses came from the Hungarian arm of the business.

Meanwhile the business has made moves to improve performance by investing £1m in a brand relaunch last October to make Bernard Matthews more appealing to mums.

According to its accounts ending June 30 2013, total sales edged higher to £346.4m from £341.4m, but the group − which also has a major operation at Holton, near Halesworth in Suffolk − recorded an £11.7m operating loss compared to a £5.3m operating profit last time.

• Do you have a business story for the Eastern Daily Press? Contact business writer Ben Woods 01603 772426 or email ben.woods@archant.co.uk

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