UK food and drink M&A activity rebounded back to pre-recession levels last year despite the pressure put on the sector by the woes of the grocers.

A Grant Thornton review of the global food and beverage M&A market in 2015 found that inward investment in the sector from overseas surged last year - with 41 transactions compared with 12 in 2014.

The number of acquisitions by UK and Irish companies also jumped by 124%, rising to 56 compared with 25 last year. Globally, the number of deals leapt to 213 compared with 167 in 2014 and deal value ballooned from £8.6bn to £81.9bn due to the £71bn AB InBev and SAB Miller deal. Even without megabrew deal values were up 24% to £10.7bn - the highest level since 2010 (which included the £12bn Cadbury sale) and before that 2007.

Private equity activity also increased, with 39 deals up from 34 in 2014.

Grant Thornton’s UK head of food and beverage Trefor Griffith predicted the surge of M&A activity would continue: “Large corporations are sitting on significant amounts of cash, private equity groups have plenty of unspent capital and alternative debt providers are proliferating.”