Irn-Bru maker AG Barr is one of the parties in talks to buy fellow UK soft drinks group Nichols, just-drinks understands.

AG Barr is among a slew of potential suitors in for Nichols, the maker of Vimto, according to industry sources. Other interested parties include a number of private equity firms, sources have said.

Nichols admitted that it is in talks over a possible takeover of the company on Monday (19 March). The London-listed company said that is in "preliminary discussions" over a possible offer.

A spokesman for Nichols refused to be drawn on the identity of the interested parties. However, he told just-drinks yesterday that talks are at a "very, very early stage".

He said: "The Nichols family owns nearly 40% of the company and is very happy to continue to own the company. Unusually for a listed company, so much of the business is held by family members, so they can decide what happens to the business."

The spokesman said talks concern the sale of the entire Nichols business, which also includes the Sunkist and Panda brands and a soft drinks dispense systems business. He added: "The Nichols family is not any rush to sell."

Officials at AG Barr could not be reached for comment.