Tangerine Confectionery has expressed an interest in buying New McCowans the maker of Highland Toffee and Wham bars.

New McCowans fell into administration on 13 September and this Tuesday, administrator Grant Thornton made the 185 employees at its facilities in Stenhousemuir, Skegness and Bristow redundent as the company officially ceased trading.

The Grocer has learned that executives from Tangerine visited the Stenhousemuir plant this week with a view to making an offer.

Tangerine, which declined to comment, was bought by private equity firm Blackstone in July and has grown fourfold since 2006 to £160m largely by buying struggling confectionery companies and transforming the fortunes of classic brands like Barratt and Taveners.

New McCowans’ closure came despite resilient turnover figures. Sales only dropped 1% to £8.42m in the 12 months to 31 March 2011, according to the latest accounts on Companies House. However, the confectioner failed to translate sales into profits. It reported pre-tax losses of £2.4m compared with £1.97m the previous year as the closure of its Broxburn plant swelled costs.

It is understood that the Stenhousemuir plant will require significant investment to make it profitable.

New McCowans went into receivership back in 2005 and was bought out by previous owners Ambrosia Holdings.

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