Hain Daniels, the UK-based arm of US food group Hain Celestial, is reportedly being eyed by a major private-equity investor in the food industry.

UK broadcaster Sky News has reported PAI Partners – which has just taken part in the takeover of Dutch food company Wessanen – has been in talks about a takeover of Hain Daniels for several weeks.

The report, published yesterday (3 October), said it was unclear at the time of writing how likely it was a deal for the Hartley’s jam and Linda McCartney veggie food business would proceed.

Approached by just-food, a spokesperson for PAI Partners – the private-equity house that also co-owns the Froneri ice-cream business with Nestlé – refused to be drawn on the report.

“We’re not confirming it, we’re not denying it, we’re not commenting – we never do on speculation,” the spokesperson said.

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By GlobalData

Officials for Hain Celestial in the New York state could not be reached outside of normal office at hours at the time of writing.

Hain Celestial has built its presence in the UK through organic growth and acquisitions over the last 13 years, first crossing the Atlantic in 2006 and buying a fresh, prepared foods business from the then H.J. Heinz.

The US group made two more acquisitions in the UK, snapping up the Linda McCartney brand and a wider meat-free business from Heinz, as well as meat-free and non-dairy beverage business Haldane Foods from Archer Daniels Midland.

Hain Celestial’s notable UK acquisitions have included the 2011 purchase of UK chilled foods firm Daniels Group, which included the New Covent Garden Soup Co. brand and which prompted the company to rename its business in the market Hain Daniels.

In August 2012, Hain Celestial bought a slate of brands including Hartley’s jam and Sun-Pat peanut butter from Premier Foods plc and followed that deal in 2013 with the acquisition of organic baby food firm Ella’s Kitchen.

In 2014, Hain Celestial also acquired UK-based packaged rice business Tilda. Last month, the company agreed to sell Tilda to Spain-based Ebro Foods.

According to the Hain Daniels website, the company has 12 sites in the UK and employs around 2,800 staff.

In the face of growing competition in the US, Hain Celestial has, in recent years, increasingly talked of a need to “simplify” a portfolio built through acquisitions over the last couple of decades in order to accelerate sales from brands that stay within the business and improve the company’s profitability.

Those moves were started under founder –  and now former CEO –  Irwin Simon in 2016. Last summer, Simon stepped down as CEO, with current chief executive Mark Schiller – a former PepsiCo and Pinnacle Foods executive – joining last November.

Schiller has continued with plans to trim the Hain portfolio, with a focus on profitable growth. And, as well as pruning SKUs, the company has offloaded assets, selling its meats division in February and finding a buyer for a tofu business in May.