Gavin Darby, chief executive of Premier Foods, has said a firm bid from the American spice firm never happened. 

Darby came under fire from shareholders because of the decision not to accept a bid from McCormick. But he has now said that, despite having full access to Premier’s accounts, a firm bid for the Mr Kipling cakes-maker never materialised.

He said: “The majority of shareholders recognise there never was a bid from McCormick - it was a phantom bid. They recognise the difference between an indicative offer and a real offer.

“They had full access to the business and still didn’t come up with a firm offer. Not all shareholders accept that, but most do.”

Shareholders in Premier previously expressed their anger at Darby for rejecting McCormick’s indicative offers, which valued the company at a 90% premium to its share price.

Premier instead announced a collaboration agreement with Japanese firm Nissin, which now holds a 19.9% stake in the company. Nissin’s managing director, Tsunao Kijima, has also been appointed to Premier’s board as a non-executive director.

Premier’s pre-tax profits grew 3.5% to £86.1m, while sales grew 0.6% to £771m in its full-year results this week.