Interest from overseas buyers in UK food and drink deals is soaring, according to M&A specialists Oghma Partners.

Figures for the first eight months of 2010 shown exclusively to The Grocer revealed acquisitions by overseas companies or UK businesses owned by overseas companies accounted for 41% of transactions by volume, the highest level since Oghma began tracking data in 2007.

The numbers signalled a long-term trend, said Oghma MD Mark Lynch. "With Thai Union's acquisition of John West, we're seeing Far Eastern players come to the piste," he said.

"If you take the view economic growth will be much greater in the Far East than Europe over the next 15 years, you'd expect more deals of this type."

The number of deals in the year to date falls short of total 2009 levels, but the estimated total value of transactions stands at £2.8bn, more than double the £1.25bn for 2009, excluding Kraft's £13.7bn Cadbury deal. This follows an increase in the average scale of transactions, with fewer than 55% of deals under £10m in the year to date compared with almost 80% in 2009.

Grant Thornton's survey of UK food and drink companies showed 69% predicting increased activity and 20% planning a deal in the next year.