UK confectioner and soft drinks group Cadbury Schweppes and Swiss food giant Nestlé are reported to be leading the race to acquire Pfizer's gum subsidiary, Adams.

Pfizer put its chewing gum and confectionery business, Adams, up for sale after a two-year ban on selling it expired.

Following the collapse of the sale of US chocolate manufacturer Hershey Foods, both Cadbury and Nestlé are thought to be looking for acquisition targets. The two companies are leading the bidding for Adams, according to a report by the Financial Times.

Kraft Foods is reported to have an interest in Adams' confectionery brands but not its chewing gum brands.

Wrigley is thought to have been excluded from the Adams bids for US antitrust reasons. The US chewing gum manufacturer could however be interested in acquiring some of Adams' overseas assets.

PepsiCo and Colgate-Palmolive are reported to have received the Adams prospectus but it is not known whether they will bid.

Adams, which owns the Dentyne and Trident chewing gum brands as well as Halls cough sweets, has annual sales of around US$2bn. Chewing gum is currently the fastest-growing sector in the confectionery market.

Following the Financial Times' report, Nestlé said that it refused to comment on market rumours.