Del Monte Foods is understood to be exploring the possible sale of its canned food business.

The US food firm is reported to be gauging interest from potential acquirers, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal. The process, however, is in the “early stages”, the publication noted.

Centerview Partners and Morgan Stanley are understood to have been hired to assist in the sale of the business, the sources said.

Del Monte had not returned a request for comment when contacted by just-food at the time of writing.

A sale of Del Monte’s canned food business, which comprises vegetables and fruit, would allow the firm to focus solely on its pet food business, which includes brands such as Milk-Bone and Kibbles ‘n Bits.

Last month, the company signed a merger agreement with Natural Balance Pet Foods, a maker of super-premium pet food for dogs and cats sold throughout North America, Europe and Asia. The deal, Del Monte said, was consistent with its long-term strategy of further strengthening its pet food and snacks brand portfolio.

In its nine-month results in March, the firm saw pet product sales grow by 8% compared to a 0.7% increase in its consumer products division.

A sale of the canned food business could net the company around US$2bn, The Wall Street Journal suggested.