Heinz has approached rival manufacturer Premier Foods over a possible deal for Sharwood's, the leading Asian sauces brand.

It emerged over the weekend that Heinz had first approached Premier several weeks ago and although the initial contact was rebuffed, more detailed talks are thought to have since taken place.

The news comes after Premier – which is under pressure to reduce a debt of £1.7bn – last month shrugged off a bid from United Biscuits for its Mr Kipling cake range.

Premier recently reached an agreement with its creditors to delay the covenant tests on its debt, shelling out almost £5m to secure the extension. The company also cancelled dividend payments to shareholders.

 Neither Premier or Heinz have commented publicly on the discussions over Sharwood's.