Brakes, the UK's biggest foodservice wholesaler, has been put up for sale by its private equity owners Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, with the sale likely to bring in £1.2bn.
CD&R is believed to have hired Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan to run the sale of Brakes, which last year recorded a turnover of £1.63bn with pre-tax profit of £50.6m.
A number of other private equity firms are thought to be interested in the deal.
The development comes as Netherlands retailer Ahold seeks to sell its American catering arm US Foodservice. It is believed some of the private equity firms eyeing that business could also be interested in acquiring Brakes.
Meanwhile, this week Brakes secured a contract to supply the food for the John Lewis Partnership customer and staff restaurants.
It also said it was rebranding its vehicle fleet in a bid to better reflect its offering. It is to depict images of its products on the sides of lorries and vans in its 1,600-strong fleet. "Because we have a frozen food history, some people still think that is all we do, when around 60% of our products are fresh and chilled," said Brakes chief executive Frank McKay.
McKay also said a decision last May to break the company into four autonomous regional companies had proved successful in delivering better sales. The move had strengthened relationships with customers, improved availability and made it possible to offer more local products.