GREGGS boss Ken McMeikan is to leave the company to take up a position as chief executive of a Kent-based catering group.

Mr McMeikan, who has been chief executive at the bakery chain since 2008, will remain in his role and as a board member while a successor is appointed, before moving to catering firm Brakes Group supplier to the food service sector in the UK, Ireland, France and Sweden.

A Royal Navy veteran of the 1982 Falklands conflict, McMeikan, 47, joined the Greggs board in June 2008, becoming chief executive of the company two months later.

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During his time at the bakers, which is the UK’s largest fast-food chain with more than 1,600 outlets, Mr McMeikan has overseen the launch and expansion of a range of frozen products in Iceland supermarkets, and as well as a series of franchise stores open in motorway service stations.

Under his leadership, the firm is also trialling sending frozen savouries to the British military base in Gutersloh, Germany, which will be baked by Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (Naafi) staff and displayed in a Greggs branded counter, and have opened a series of Greggs Moment coffee shops.

Last year, the firm opened a £16.5m bakery in Gosforth Park, Tyneside, which employs 300 people.

Before joining Greggs, Mr McMeikan was retail director of supermarket Sainsbury’s, having joined them in 2005 after a short period as chief executive of Tesco in Japan. Prior to this, he had spent 14 years in operational roles within Tesco, becoming chief executive of the Europa Foods convenience store business following its acquisition in 2002, with responsibility for its integration into the Tesco Express format.

Derek Netherton, chairman of Greggs, said “We are very grateful to Ken for the valuable contribution he has made to Greggs.

“He has led the company through the major changes that have put us in a strong position for the future with a clear strategy for growth in a difficult environment. We wish Ken well in his new role.”

Ken McMeikan, chief executive of the bakery firm, said: "It has been a great honour to lead Greggs since 2008. “It is a wonderful company with fantastic people and I am enormously proud of all that we have achieved together.

“There are many exciting growth opportunities ahead for the business and the team are well placed to deliver them.”

NECC chief executive James Ramsbotham said: “Ken has been an integral part of Gregg’s success in recent years, spearheading the food retailer’s expansion across the country as well as leading and eventually winning the high-profile fight against the Government’s efforts to introduce the so-called pasty tax.

“He has also made an important contribution to the wider business community as chairman of the CBI and the effort he has made to ensure that Greggs has played its part as a significant organisation within the North-East.

“Ken leaves Greggs in robust health having grown exponentially despite the considerable economic challenges of recent years. I wish him the best of luck in his new role and very much look forward to working with him in the future.”