The UK's food industry has faced a foreign invasion in the past 10 years, with some of the country's most iconic food brands being swallowed up by overseas companies, a new report by Grant Thornton Corporate Finance reveals.

Some 650 UK food manufacturers have been acquired in the past decade, with foreign buyers accounting for a fifth of these deals.

However, overseas predators have represented half of the £52bn that has been splashed out on acquiring the companies.

In the past 10 years, a string of high-profile British manufacturers, including KP Nuts owner United Biscuits, HP sauce manufacturer HP Foods and Weetabix, have passed into foreign ownership.

"Foreign investors making a UK acquisition have aimed for larger food manufacturers in deals that could not only provide a foothold in the British market but, crucially, the ownership of longstanding and established UK brands," said Phil Jackson, head of Grant Thornton Corporate Finance's Food Team.

The fact that the UK's market for mergers and acquisitions was more developed than on the Continent was making it an attractive option for foreign investors, he said - as was its more mature convenience foods offer.

The report also revealed that French companies have invested more money in buying up UK companies in the past 10 years than firms from any other country.

Our Gallic cousins, renowned for their dim views about the quality of British cuisine, have spent £9.7bn on nine deals compared with £7.4bn spent on 38 deals by US and £2.7bn spent on four deals by the Belgians.

Other purchasers have came from Puerto Rico, Trinidad & Tobago and North Korea.

The UK's market for mergers and acquisitions is predicted to remain strong going forward, Jackson said.

Companies such as Associated British Foods, Britvic and Nichols, the maker of Vimto, could be next on the foreign buyers' shopping lists, he added.

But it's not just a case of overseas firms making incursions on British soil. The UK has invested £34.6bn of its own money on foreign acquisitions in the past 10 years.

The bulk of this investment was made in the US, with £21.9bn spent there, followed by France (£3.2bn) and Colombia (£2bn).