The time is right for thousands of family-owned companies to seek outside investment, according to Ford Campbell Corporate Finance.

It is writing to over 5,000 owner-managers whose companies turn over £3m to £50m, calling on them to "make the most of tasty opportunities within the food industry" as economic and commercial pressures in the market intensify.

Ford Campbell believes food importers, processors and commercial farming operations, plus commodity traders, fertilizer producers and small branded consumer goods makers especially ice cream makers are particularly attractive to trade and financial buyers.

"In 2010, the food sector was one of the most sought-after for M&A targets and there is no sign of activity drying up," said corporate finance manager Tim Marlow. "Activity in the market will continue to rise as UK food and beverage manufacturers face cost pressures, the weakness of sterling and a dynamic with the big four supermarkets that a number of owner-managers describe as challenging."

He added: "We aim to use our expertise to help owner-managers realise the full value of their business. We see this process as knitting together the needs of SMEs and the acquisition strategies of larger private businesses, which we have done very successfully in the past."

In November, Ford Campbell led the sale of foodservice supplier Bri-tal Foods to Westbridge.