Vegetarians are the butt of plenty of jokes but it looks like Premier Foods has got the last laugh with Quorn.

The manufacturing giant admitted this morning that it has had approaches for its meat-free business, which also includes the Cauldron brand.

A sale could net Premier £250m – a tidy sum that would take a decent bite out of its vast debt mountain. The City is keen on the idea too, with Premier’s shares up 12% to 18p a pop this morning.

Whoever captures Quorn will be landing a bargain. It leads the UK’s veggie sector by a country mile and, with annual sales of £118m and rising, is Premier’s fourth-largest brand behind the heavyweight trio of Hovis, Mr Kipling and Batchelor's.

Quorn’s strength is that it has successfully positioned itself as a brand not just for veggies. Premier ditched the ‘v’ word from its marketing three years ago and has successfully turned Quorn into a meat-free alternative for the heath-conscious.

The company claims almost one in four households now buy Quorn products – a number boosted by ‘meat-reducers’ shunning the stuff for environmental reasons.

No wonder big manufacturers such as Unilever and Nestlé are reportedly keen to sink their teeth in.

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