Private equity groups and food companies are lining up to bid for the businesses Northern Foods has put up for sale, The Grocer has learned.

The news emerged a week after analysts expressed concern in these pages that the troubled supplier, which this week reported a 38% fall in half-year pre-tax profit to £16m, was failing to attract enough interest in the businesses it put up for sale in May for a combined £200m.

Paul Monk, former CEO of Golden Wonder, is understood to be leading a bid for the Park Cakes and Pork Farms businesses.

Monk, who in January was linked to a bid to save Golden Wonder from administration, is joined by former Golden Wonder executive John Duffy and private equity group Rutland Partners, an industry insider told The Grocer.

Others in the frame include US private equity house Vision, bidding for Pork Farms, Park Cakes, Fletchers Bakeries and Smith's Flour Milling.

A former Northern Foods executive, backed by a consortium of private equity groups and banks, has also made a bid for Pork Farms, while a private family working in the baking industry is interested in Fletchers Bakeries, the insider added.

But cake maker Finsbury Food Group, also tipped to be in the running for Park Cakes, denied any interest. The insider dismissed suggestions by analysts that Northern Foods would struggle to get the prices it wanted, saying all bids were "for a sensible amount".

Simon Peacock from Catalyst Corporate Finance said: "I am not surprised by the level of interest from small private equity groups because they are queuing up for food deals."

The line from Northern itself this week was of the disposals "progressing in line with expections".

There had been good interest in the businesses and the company would give an update "as and when it could", said CEO Pat O'Driscoll. "In May we said we would look to dispose of the businesses within 12 months. We are still on for doing that."