THE vegetarian food empire set up by Linda McCartney is about to be sold to the Swiss food giant Nestlé, it was reported yesterday.
The business was launched in 1991 by the first wife of former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney. Sir Paul is a vegetarian, as was Lady McCartney, who died in 1998 from breast cancer.
The range of meat-free meals became a huge hit with families across the UK, rapidly rising to become a market leader.
Heinz won the licence to manufacture the range as part of its acquisition of United Biscuits Frozen and Chilled Foods in 1999.
Last September, Heinz put its frozen food business, including the Linda McCartney range, on the market for a reported 200 million.
Reports have suggested the Israel-based food company Tivall - a subsidiary of Osem, which is partly owned by Nestl - is preparing to make an offer.
A spokesman for Heinz refused to comment on whether it was in talks with Tivall.
He added: "We continue to explore options to maximise the value of the frozen food business."
Earlier this month the Body Shop founder Anita Roddick was criticised for selling her company to L'Oral, which is partly owned by Nestl.
Campaigners have boycotted Nestl products, claiming the company is responsible for "aggressive" marketing of baby foods and powdered baby milk in the developing world and undermining the benefits of breastfeeding.