Nestle is understood to be in discussion to buy Novartis' nutritional supplements business, which makes oral and tube products for use in hospitals and nursing homes. The business could be worth more than US$1bn (€0.78bn at current exchange rates).
The inclusion of Gerber would give Nestle additional bulk in its nutrition division, under which the supplements business would be organized - as well as complimenting its existing position in early stage nutrition.
Andrew Wood, an analyst from Bernstein Research, has pointed out that baby food and clinical nutrition make up two of the four businesses that make up Nestle's nutrition division. Although he said rumours of a Gerber buy have been circulating for years, he believes it would make sense - not least since it regards health, wellness and nutrition as a major priority at the present time.
Neither Nestle nor Novartis have released any statement on a potential deal including Gerber, but the reports stem from a Wall Street Journal interview with Novartis chief executive Daniel Vasella, in which he reportedly said in an interview that the company "probably would act opportunistically" if an offer for Gerber emerged.
Vasella added that no auction for Gerber is presently underway.
News on Nestle's health and wellness strategy is emerging on a weekly basis. Last week its research laboratory entered into an agreement with EPFL's Brain Mind Institute, which is expected to yield novel natural ingredients.
Moreover, consumer trends away from unhealthy confectionery were this week cited as a cause for a drop in demand for icon brands such as Lion Bar, resulting the closure of four of Nestle's facilities in France. For the first nine months of the current fiscal year Nestle's nutrition unit reported sales of CHF4.3m (€2.7m), up from CHF 3.8m (€2.4m) for the prior year period.