Premier Foods plc, the UK’s largest food maker, has revealed it is in “advanced” talks with two suitors interested in buying its meat-free business, which includes the Quorn brand.

Yesterday (2 December), reports in the UK claimed Nestle was in discussions to buy Quorn. Both the Swiss food giant and Premier refused to comment. Premier’s shares closed up over 12% on the London stock exchange at 18.6p.

This morning, Premier issued a statement to confirm the discussions with “two parties”, although the company refused to reveal the identity of the suitors.

However, Premier, which first revealed interest in its meat-free business in October, said it had received bids from “a number of parties, including multinational food groups and private-equity firms”.

“Discussions are proceeding and are at an advanced stage with two parties. There can be no guarantee that a sale of its Meat-free business will take place,” Premier said today. “Further announcements will be made as and when appropriate.”

Premier, which sells brands including Hovis bread, Mr Kipling cakes and Bisto gravy, is said to be under pressure from investors to sell assets to pay down debt. On 26 June, Premier said its debt stood at GBP1.37bn.

As well as interest in its meat-free business, Premier revealed last month that it had received approaches for its canning operations in East Anglia.