Pinnacle - said to be exploring options.

Pinnacle - said to be exploring options.

A report in the US suggests Pinnacle Foods has hired investment bank Evercore Partners to explore strategic alternatives.

The New York Post, quoting sources, said the Hungry Man TV dinner and Vlasic Pickles maker is responding to pressure from activist investor Jana Partners which is said to want Pinnacle to merge with local peer ConAgra Brands.

Earlier this month ConAgra announced it had it had ended its cooperation agreement with Jana Partners.

The maker of Hunt's ketchup and Marie Callender's microwave dinners had an understanding with Jana Partners dating back to 2015 when it and the investor reached a deal for two new mutually agreed directors to join ConAgra's board.

ConAgra reportedly tried and failed to buy Pinnacle last summer at an undisclosed price. 

Jana is a long-time shareholder in ConAgra and has a 9.5% stake in Pinnacle.

According to the New York Post's source, Pinnacle's hiring a bank does not necessarily signal a sale as Evercore is known for advising on defence against activist shareholders and hostile takeovers.

The source suggested that instead of joining forces with ConAgra, Pinnacle could make a move to buy Schwan's Co., the owner of Red Baron Pizza and Mrs Smith's pies, which is said to have started a sales process.

In response to a request for a comment from just-food, Pinnacle Foods said it does not comment on rumours or speculation.