Companies including Danone, Kerry Group, Singapore-based agribusiness and food group Wilmar International and South Korean business Pulmuone Co. are eyeing Quorn Foods, joining the likes of McCain Foods as possible bidders for the UK meat-free firm.

US food group Post Holdings and Philippines-based business Monde Nissin are also understood to be looking at Quorn, which has been put up for sale by Exponent Private Equity after four years of ownership.

First-round bids are due on 12 October and the company has attracted interest from trade and private-equity sources.

In what could be a competitive auction for Quorn, with frozen food group Nomad Foods and Alpro owner WhiteWave Foods also among those that have shown interest in the business, just-food understands some interested parties, including Pulmuone, have been looking to strike a pre-emptive deal ahead of the 12 October deadline. It is understood McCain and private-equity firm CVC could also look to seal an agreement before then.

Exponent has hired Houlihan Lokey to run an auction for a company it bought in 2011 from Premier Foods plc for GBP205m (US$310.5m).

In 2014, Quorn saw sales hit GBP150.3m in 2014, up 6.5% on 2013, a year when its revenue had risen 7%. The company generated operating profit of GBP19.6m last year, compared to GBP11.3m in 2013. It made a loss of GBP5m in 2014 due in part to interest payable on loans but the figure was down from GBP15.4m a year earlier.

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The privately-owned Quorn has disclosed sales for the first half of 2015. Sales were up 7% on the opening six months of 2014, the company revealed earlier this month.

Quorn declined to comment. Officials at Danone had not returned a request for comment at the time of writing.