Consumer products and retail (CPR) companies have the greatest appetite for mergers and acquisitions out of 19 sectors, a global survey by EY has found.

More than half (55%) of the 237 CPR industry leaders from around the world which were asked plan to pursue acquisitions in the next 12 months.

EY’s 14th ‘consumer products and retail capital confidence barometer’ also revealed that 33% have four or more deals in the pipeline, with a spike in hunger for megadeals.

However, caution remains among executives as 45% are prioritizing cost reduction and efficiency in the boardroom, and 20% have walked away from deals because of issues uncovered during due diligence – up from 5% six months ago.

Eighty-eight percent also admitted to failing to complete or cancelling a planned acquisition in the past 12 months, a 13% increase from six months prior.

“While caution still looms, consumer products and retail companies are actively seeking to drive external growth momentum, with 33% citing four or more deals in the pipeline – up from 23% six months ago,” said Blaise Girard, EY’s global consumer products & retail leader in the transaction advisory services team.

“Companies that use strategic M&A to address disruptive forces across the sector, rather than focusing on cost reduction alone, will be positioned to thrive in the months and years to come.”

The survey also found a significant spike in the number of companies looking at deals worth more than $1bn, rising to 13% from 4% just six months ago.

Girard added that more companies were looking for transformative deals to fundamentally alter their business strategy and disrupt the market.