Unilever is reportedly set to win the auction for healthy snack brand Graze in one of new CEO Alan Jope’s first significant moves since taking the reins at the Anglo-Dutch consumer giant.

The Grocer reported in November that Unilever was vying with fellow global fmcg giants Kellogg’s and PepsiCo to buy up the UK snacking business in a deal current private equity owner Carlyle hoped to be worth as much as £300m.

Sky News on Wednesday suggested Unilever had emerged as the frontrunner and was “close to securing a period of exclusivity” to tie up the deal.

Industry observers told The Grocer that Graze was an ideal candidate to become Alan Jope’s first acquisition since taking over from Paul Polman at the start of the year.

“The model is what’s really interesting for Unilever,” said one City source. “Graze’s direct-to-consumer component is arguably slowing down a bit, but it may well be Unilever is going for it because they feel they can learn some direct-to-consumer lessons and expertise to apply elsewhere in their business.”

Sources told The Grocer last year that the hoped-for £300m valuation was “insanely high”. Sky suggested the final deal was likely to be valued at about £150m-£200m.

Carlyle and investment bank Harris Williams are understood to be targeting a conclusion for the auction before the end of February, having previously aimed for a pre-Christmas completion.

Graze was founded by Graham Bosher in 2008 and was snapped up by Carlyle in 2013 for £50m.