The world’s largest food business, Nestle SA (NSRGY), has reportedly put its U.S. confectionery business up fore sale as the maker of Butterfinger, Nerds, Baby Ruth and Crunch candy bars grapples with changing consumer demands for healthier products. Nestle’s confectionery unit, which makes up about 3% of its total U.S. sales—$922 million in 2016—could be worth up to $3 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.

With newly instated Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mark Schneider at the helm, the global food giant has accelerated its aggressive push into healthier categories such as coffee, pet food, water and health sciences. After six months, the CEO who has a background in health care, has shown how serious he is about transforming Nestle's direction amid slowing growth in the overall packaged food industry. (See also: Nestle Chocolate Prods. to Have 10% Less Sugar.)

Transforming a Global Food Giant

“Looks like the start of a new era for Nestle,” wrote Bank Vontobel analyst Jean-Philippe Bertschy, indicating that the move opens up doors for Nestle to begin strategic reviews of its other underperforming businesses, including its U.S. frozen foods, ice cream and pizza segments, along with its Herta processed-meat brand in Europe.

Jefferies analyst Martin Deboo, noting Schneider’s new-found decisiveness, says the likely buyer would be a smaller food maker or a private equity firm, yet says he would not rule out Hershey Co. (HSY) or Mars. New consumer trends have set off a wave of food and beverage M&A activity and massive cost-cutting plans, explaining America’s No. 2 candy maker Mondelez International Inc.’s (MDLZ) failed bid for Hershey (No. 4) for $25 billion.

Shares of the Vevey, Switzerland-based company are trading up 1.6% on Friday morning at $85.31 per share, reflecting an 18.5% gain over the most recent 12-month period and an 18.9% return year-to-date (YTD). (See also: World’s Largest Food and Beverage Players 2017: Nestle, Pepsi, Coke Topple Peers.)

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