UGO Foods Group has announced Sophia Cooke as its new chief executive officer, taking over from Paul Ugo who has been running and growing the family business for the last 26 years.

UGO claims to be the longest established fresh pasta and noodle company in the UK, producing both private label and branded products with its pasta brand, Dell’Ugo.

Ugo will step into the role of chairman, whilst Cooke continues to deliver step changes in the business, having been the commercial director for the past 18 months.

With over 16 years’ experience in the UK food sector, including five years in senior management positions at Tesco, Cooke is said to bring a wealth of commercial expertise and insight to the business.

Specialising in retail, insight and brand development, Cooke is best known for delivering commercial changes as Tesco’s head of customer strategy for the Convenience Foods Division.

During her time at UGO Foods, she is reported to have led a significant restructure, won the company numerous awards including Business of the Year at the Hertfordshire Business Awards, and relaunched Ugo Thrive, a chilled free-from brand.

Cooke says that her practical hands-on food sector experience will drive forward UGO Foods Group’s growth plan for the next three years.

Cooke commented: “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.

“The chilled convenience food category is one of the most exciting and dynamic in the UK food sector and 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 added: “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 continues to be an invaluable asset to our business.”