By Lauren Hirsch
(Reuters) - JAB Holdings, the owner of Caribou Coffee and Peet's Coffee & Tea, is in advanced talks to acquire Bakery chain Panera Bread Co (PNRA.O) as it expands its coffee and breakfast empire, a source familiar with the situation said on Tuesday.
JAB, which also owns coffee k-cup maker Keurig Green Mountain, could help Panera expand its breakfast business as it competes for the only growing meal in the fast food industry.
The source requested anonymity because the talks are confidential. Luxembourg-based JAB, the investment vehicle of the billionaire Reimann family, declined to comment. Panera also declined to comment.
St. Louis-based Panera, whose fresh offerings appeal to increasingly health conscious consumers, has reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings per share for the last six quarters. The stock has risen nearly 28 percent this year.
JAB has steadily built its breakfast and coffee empire, seeking to take advantage of the high-margin coffee industry and diners' loyalty to breakfast spots.
JAB became the largest pure-play coffee company by volume in 2015, when its created Jacobs Douwe Egberts in Europe, a joint venture that combined its D.E. Master Blenders 1753 business with the coffee business of U.S.-based Mondelez International Inc (MDLZ.O).
Since then, it has acquired other breakfast and coffee companies, including Krispy Kreme Doughnuts for roughly $1.35 billion and Green Mountain for $13.9 billion last year.
JAB also controls cosmetics company Coty Inc (COTY.N) and luxury goods maker Jimmy Choo (CHOO.L).
Restaurant acquisitions have picked up speed in recent months. Restaurant Brands International (QSR.TO), which owns Burger King and Tim Hortons, in February announced a deal to buy Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.
Darden Restaurants Inc (DRI.N) said in March it would buy casual dining chain Cheddars Scratch Kitchen.
Bloomberg first reported Panera was in advanced sale talks with JAB.
(This version of the story has been refiled to remove the extraneous word in headline)
(Reporting by Lauren Hirsch; editing by Andrew Hay and Richard Chang)