East Anglia-based poultry producer Bernard Matthews has appointed a new managing director as it continues its drive to bounce back after posting an annual loss of £20.3million for 2013.

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The company, which is based at Great Witchingham in Norfolk and also has a major site in Suffolk, at Holton, near Halesworth, has recruited Rob Burnett from Hain Daniels, owner of brands including Linda McCartney, Sunpat, Johnson’s Juice and the New Covent Garden Soup Company.

Mr Burnett takes over the helm at Bernard Matthews from David Joll, who has been acting as executive chairman since May last year when Noel Bartram stood down as group chief executive on health grounds. Chairman David McColl and UK managing director Rob Mears had also left their respective roles in the weeks before Mr Joll’s appointment.

“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,” said Mr Burnett, who will take up his new role on June 30.

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

Last year’s poor financial performance, which compared with a profit of £2 in 2012, resulted from by a double blow in the shape of high feed costs and demands from supermarkets to drive down prices.

During the year, Bernard Matthews 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 business, leading to a reduction in staff of more than 400, with most of the job losses involving its Hungarian operations.

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

Mr Burnett has been chief executive at Hain Daniels for the past 12 years. Before that, he held sales and general management roles at Albert Fisher, including managing director within its seafood division and group commercial director.

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