BOSSES at Linda McCartney's vegetarian food empire said today they were "exploring options" amid reports it is about to be sold to Swiss food giant Nestle.
The business was launched in 1991 by the first wife of former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney.
Lady McCartney, who died in 1998 from breast cancer, and Sir Paul were both committed vegetarians.
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The range of meat-free meals became a huge hit with families across the UK, rapidly rising to become a market leader.
Heinz won the licence to manufacture the range as part of its acquisition of United Biscuits Frozen and Chilled Foods in 1999.
Last September, Heinz put its frozen food business, including the Linda McCartney range, on the market for a reported ÃÂ£200 million.
Reports have suggested Israel-based food company Tivall - a subsidiary of Osem which is partly owned by Nestle - is preparing to put an offer in.
A spokesman for Heinz refused to comment on whether it was in talks with Tivall.
He added: "We continue to explore options to maximise the value of the frozen food business."
Earlier this month Body Shop founder Anita Roddick was criticised for selling her company to L'Oreal, which is partly owned by Nestle.
Campaigners have boycotted Nestle products, claiming it is responsible for "aggressive" marketing of baby foods and powdered baby milk in the developing world and undermining the benefits of breastfeeding.
- 181 Food and Agriculture