Premier is selling off non-core operations, which include brands like Hartleys jam and Haywards pickles

Premier is selling off non-core operations, which include brands like Hartley's jam and Haywards pickles

Premier Foods plc has remained tight-lipped over which companies have bid for its spreads business following reports Hain Celestial is the front runner for the unit.

According to the Financial Times, natural and organic food group Hain Celestial is leading the race to acquire the business from Premier, which has been working to turn around its business and continue to offload some units.

A spokesperson for Premier told just-food today (22 June): "Premier has laid out its strategy and that is that it would seek disposal of non-core businesses. That strategy has been consistent and we're not going to comment on what might or might not happen or on any individual brands or press reports. Beyond that there is no more comment."

Hain’s bid is understood to be around GBP200m (US$312m), the FT noted.

The company could not be reached for comment.

Premier, which sold its vinegar and sour pickles business to Japanese food group Mizkan last week, is understood to have received around six bids for the unit, mainly from private equity firms, the FT reported.

Morgan Stanley Private Equity, a division of the Wall Street investment banking giant, is said to be vying with a number of other buy-out firms for the unit, including TDR Capital, CapVest and HIG.

CapVest and HIG declined to comment, while Morgan Stanley and TDR Capital did not return a request for comment at the time of going to press.

It is thought Premier's spreads business could change hands for between GBP160m and GBP180m.

The company's strategy is to focus on its core, "power brands", which include Batchelors, Loyd Grossman, Oxo and Sharwood's, and selling off non-core operations, which include brands like Hartley's jam and Haywards pickles.

In April, the company booked an increase in first-quarter sales, boosted by the performance of its 'power brands'.