C&C, the Irish drinks and snacks group, has confirmed that it is conducting a strategic review of its crisps subsidiary, Tayto, in what is seen as a prelude to putting it on the market.

According to analysts, there are two obvious buyers for the Republic of Ireland's best-known crisps maker.

The favourite is Tayto Northern Ireland, a separate company based in County Armagh, which bought Golden Wonder this year for £15m (The Grocer, February 25, p12).

Tayto Northern Ireland MD Stephen Hutchinson told the Irish edition of The Sunday Times that he would "definitely be interested" in uniting the two Tayto businesses into a single brand if C&C decided to sell.

The other company likely to be in the running is Largo Foods, which claims to be Ireland's largest snack food company.

It produces Perri crisps and manufactures Hunky Dory and Sam Spudz at plants in Meath and Donegal.

Three years ago C&C closed its Tayto manufacturing plant in Terenure, Dublin, with the loss of some 200 jobs, and moved the contract over to Largo.

The C&C decision to review the future of Tayto comes in the face of increasing competition from Walkers, which is estimated to have taken up to 33% of the Republic's market. In addition, said Liam Igoe, a food analyst with Goodbody's, "the snacks market has slowed down a lot possibly because it has reached saturation point, and Tayto sales have remained static".

While Igoe estimates C&C's crisps business makes an annual profit of E8m, he says C&C wants to focus on its other brands, most particularly the growth of its Bulmers and Magners cider in the Irish and UK markets. If the Republic of Ireland's Tayto were to come on the market, he said it would fetch E60m.

Tayto Northern Ireland produces Tayto brand crisps and snacks as well as own label for the UK, and Champion and Tri-sum brands for the Republic.

C&C's Tayto sells Tayto brand and King branded crisps in the Republic of Ireland.