Chris Martin, the chief executive of Musgrave Group, is to retire from his position at the helm of the retailer after 14 years in the job.

The news came as the company announced a 5.5% increase in profit before tax for last year, to €84.5m. 

The profit was based on a turnover of €3.9 billion, an increase of 3.8% on the previous year.

Chairman Nicky Hartery thanked Chris Martin for his "exceptional leadership" as CEO and his "unstinting commitment" to Musgrave over the past 14 years, which included the acquisition of Superquinn, La Rousse Foods and Donnybrook Fair.

"He has led the growth of outstanding grocery and foodservice brands which are now in leadership positions in one of the most competitive markets internationally," he said.

"Chris was instrumental in the development of our purpose, Growing Good Business, which forms a lasting foundation for the future success of the business. He leaves the business in good shape with SuperValu and Centra both achieving record sales in 2018."

According to the company, the process of finding a replacement has already begun and Mr Martin will remain in his role pending an orderly transition.

"Musgrave has been an important part of my life and I have had the privilege of working with exceptional colleagues, world class retailers and supportive shareholders," the outgoing CEO said.

Addressing the 2018 results, Mr Martin said the growth in profits for a fourth year in a row had been achieved despite very competitive markets.

"Our performance underlines the success of our Growing Good Business strategy, which is on track to deliver long-term growth," he said.

"Through this strategy, we are successfully evolving our business to provide people with unique food experiences when, where and how they want them."

Net assets at the firm were €410m at the end of December, an increase of €79m on 2017 and the business ended the year with net cash of €16m.

Sales at Centra last year were €1.9 billion, while the Daybreak brand added 17 new stores, bringing its total to 237.

The wholesale and foodservice section saw its sales increase 13% to €0.6 billion, while the company's Spanish subsidiary has sales of €190m.

The company said that while the Irish economy remains robust, it cautioned that international factors including Brexit could have a negative effect on consumer confidence in Ireland.  

The Musgrave Group is Ireland's largest private sector employer and supports more than 41,000 jobs, in more than 1,400 stores and offices.