Shares of Unilever and Kraft Heinz shot higher Friday, after the companies disclosed that Unilever had rejected an unsolicited $143 billion bid from the Warren Buffet-backed Kraft Heinz.
"Unilever rejected the proposal as it sees no merit, either financial or strategic, for Unilever's shareholders," the company said in a statement.
But Kraft Heinz isn't giving up, setting the stage for what could potentially be one of the biggest deals ever in the space.
For comparison, the largest retail or consumer deal of 2015 was H.J. Heinz's $53.1 billion acquisition of Kraft Foods. And last year, the biggest agreement was the still-pending combination of Danone and WhiteWave for $10.4 billion.
Food and beverage accounted for the highest share in deal volume and value in 2016, due to changing consumer preferences and an increased focus on health and wellness, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.
A tie-up between Kraft Heinz and Unilever would bring together the fifth- and third-largest consumer food firms. It would add Hellmann's mayonnaise, Ben & Jerry's ice cream and Knorr soups to a portfolio that includes Heinz ketchup and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.
Here are the food brands that Kraft Heinz would stand to acquire if it were to merge with Unilever:
- Ben & Jerry's
- Good Humor
- I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
- Brummel & Brown
- Country Crock
- PG Tips
Unilever is both a food and home and personal care company, meaning it also owns brands like Axe, Dove and St. Ives.
Kraft Heinz, which explored the acquisition of Mondelez International in December, could be looking at the home and personal care category (HPC) as a way to grow its business, Mark Astrachan, an analyst with Stifel, told CNBC.
"Food doesn't grow as a fast as [home and personal care]," he said.
Astrachan noted that Unilever is considered the second- or third-largest home and personal care company behind Procter & Gamble, with its global home care business reaching $10 billion.
Yet Pablo Zuanic of Susquehanna Financial Group expects that, if acquired, Kraft Heinz would opt to sell the home and personal care unit and focus on the food and beverage unit.
"We expect Kraft Heinz to float, divest, or sell the HPC piece," he wrote in a research note Friday.
- Lever 2000
- St. Ives
CORRECTION: This story was updated to correct the spelling of Procter & Gamble.