Duchy Originals and Waitrose are discussing a deal that would integrate Prince Charles’s food products into the upscale supermarket chain’s mainstream operation, according to The Times.

A prime mover is the fact that Duchy has suffered in the recession – profits fell 70% to £152,000 in the year to March 2008 – and is looking to cut costs.

Any deal would see the company, owned by the Prince’s Charities Foundation, remain an independent brand and entity. Waitrose is already its biggest customer, with 40% of sales.

In return for exclusive rights to sell Duchy Originals’ products, Waitrose would integrate its production and back office functions.

An indication of Duchy’s problems is the fact that last year it made no contribution to the Prince’s Charities Foundation, compared with £740,000 in 2007.

Because of it charitable status, the outright acquisition of Duchy by Waitrose is considered unlikely. Neither Duchy chief executive Andrew Baker nor Waitrose were prepared to comment.