Trian Fund Management, the investment vehicle of activist shareholder Nelson Peltz, confirmed today (19 April) it has taken up stakes in snack food giants PepsiCo and Mondelez International.

In a regulatory filing with the SEC, Trian said that, as of the end of December, it held a US$494.2m stake in Mondelez and a $269.1m stake in PepsiCo.

The news is likely to fuel fresh speculation that Peltz could be pushing for a merger between the two groups.

As just-food argued last month, when speculation first emerged that Peltz could be buying up shares in the US food firms, a merger between the two groups would bring a number of strategic advantages.

Both Mondelez and PepsiCo would boost their presence in emerging markets, as each firm would benefit from the other’s distribution channels. At the same time, PepsiCo’s strength in the US would calm investor jitters over Mondelez’s exposure to higher growth – but higher risk – emerging markets.

The combined group would also benefit from a stronger snack portfolio: combining PepsiCo’s might in salty snacks with Mondelez’s hefty position in confectionery and sweet biscuits.

PepsiCo, which has previously played down the need for “large scale” M&A, confirmed the group has engaged in talks with Peltz.

“In recent weeks, we have held meetings with Trian to discuss and consider their ideas and initiatives as part of our ongoing evaluation of all opportunities to drive long term growth and shareholder value. Trian is a respected investor, and we look forward to continuing constructive discussions with them,” the company said.

One barrier to a merger between the two groups is widely thought to be PepsiCo’s drinks business. Significantly, speaking during an analyst call following its quarterly results update yesterday, management indicated that the group has launched a review of its under performing North American drinks business.

“Across the beverage business, we are taking out costs to drive margin and improve returns under our current structure, while we continue our work to explore sensible opportunities to unlock incremental value through meaningful structural alternatives,” PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi commented. However, she added that the company did not plan to provide a further update on this process until “early next year”.

Mondelez was not immediately available for comment.