Chocolate maker Thorntons has confirmed that it has been in preliminary discussions with a private equity house that “may or may not lead to an offer for the company”.

In September, Thorntons said the hot summer had hit full-year sales but it planned to increase its market share of confectionery sales held by supermarkets.

The success of its branded chocolate countlines in Tesco, has seen Thorntons secure additional listings of impulse products at Sainsbury, Morrisons and Safeway, while continuing to produce own label lines for Marks and Spencer.

Thorntons’ business with the supermarkets this year rocketed 93.8% to £3.1m this year on the back of greater distribution of its products outside its own retail estate.