Pierre van Heerden is stepping down as executive general manager of Sanitarium Health Food Co, earning praise on the way out from the NZ Food and Grocery Council.

Van Heerden has been a stalwart of the industry, having chaired and sat as a member on the FGC. Current chief executive Katherine Rich cited his efforts on industry-good work including being on the Health Star Rating group, the Front of Pack Labelling advisory group, and the public/private partnership on food security.

"Pierre has played a big part in the advancement of the food and grocery industry for nearly 10 years," Rich said. "He led the FGC board through some testing times, and it's impossible to calculate the number of hours he devoted to working on issues with me, the board, and members personally or on their behalf."

Van Heerden would also be remembered for the Kickstart club that Sanitarium established with Fonterra and the government to provide breakfasts at school. Last year he was awarded the Prime Minister's Business Scholarship, with study at the INSEAD business school and the London Business School.