Tayto chief executive leaves after 17 years to 'pursue new challenges'
Tayto Group chief executive Paul Allen has left the crisps and snacks giant after 17 years at the top, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
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Mr Allen led the Tandragee-based firm over a period of rapid expansion, starting with the 2006 purchase of rival Golden Wonder and in more recent years, popcorn businesses and vending companies.
This week the company announced a joint venture to make healthy snacks like coconut clusters with Bite UK.
Tayto Group, along with affiliated business Montagu Group, is expected to report combined sales of just under £250m.
It's now the biggest indigeneously-owned crisps and snacks manufacturer in the UK.
Director Stephen Hutchinson - a member of the family which owns Tayto - said: "We are sorry to see Paul leave. In the time he has been with us, he has led the company's growth and expansion, and his dedication and commitment to the Tayto brand has been unparalleled.
"We understand and support Paul's decision to further his own career in other areas and he remains a firm friend of Tayto.
"He is a businessman of vision and entrepreneurial flair and we shall miss him greatly."
Mr Allen said: "I have always been extremely proud to be part of the iconic brand that is Tayto and have considered it a privilege to contribute in some small way to its growth over the years. It will always hold a special place in my heart.
"I'm now looking forward to taking on new challenges. My business interest has always been in working to develop and expand companies, to build security into them and to make them into long-term assets, and I look forward to doing more of that in the future, both in NI and further afield."
One possibility for Mr Allen is that he will focus on the Genesis Crafty baked goods firm which he acquired last year after it went into administration owing around £4m to creditors. Mr Allen acquired Genesis Crafty through his company Hatch Bros for £1.8m.
Recruitment specialist Neal Lucas, who specialises in executive search, said Mr Allen's would be "hard shoes to fill".
"He has delivered unparalleled growth for the Tayto Group and deserves a huge amount of respect for what he has contributed to Northern Ireland," he said.
"A leader's success must be judged, in part, by how smooth the transition to their replacement is and if the business can continue with another person in the driving seat.
"I would be surprised if someone of the calibre of Paul Allen has not laid down solid foundations for this to happen."
He said Mr Allen will be in high demand as a non-executive or even as a mentor to business leaders here and further afield.