Bridgepoint Development Capital, the private equity owner of café chain Pret a Manger, is eyeing an investment in chocolatier Hotel Chocolat.

The firm, which is the smaller buyout arm of Bridgepoint, has held early-stage talks with the retailer, The Independent reported.

It is understood a number of private equity firms and Asian investors could be among the companies vying to invest in the rapidly growing retailer.

Hotel Chocolat hired advisers at the accountancy firm PwC last year after receiving unsolicited approaches from suitors.

The 70-store retailer is sounding out potential investors as it looks to enter its next stage of growth including building its burgeoning international business

Chief executive Angus Thirlwell said: “As a successful brand we have had numerous approaches over the last few years from potential investors. 

“Preliminary discussions may or may not lead to the investment of a minority stake in the business, to assist with the next stage of growth.”