American food giant Kraft Heinz has abandoned its takeover attempt of Anglo-Dutch rival Unilever in what would have been one of the biggest corporate deals in history.

Unilever had rejected Kraft Heinz’s US$143bn offer on 17 Feb, saying it saw "no merit, either financial or strategic”.

Just 48 hours later, Kraft Heinz announced it had “amicably” withdrawn its offer.

Michael Mullen, a Kraft Heinz spokesman, said in a BBC report that its interest was made public at an extremely early stage.

"Our intention was to proceed on a friendly basis, but it was made clear Unilever did not wish to pursue a transaction. It is best to step away early so both companies can focus on their own independent plans to generate value," he said.

Unilever produces some of the best known food and personal care brands around the world including Becel and Flora spreads and cooking oils, Ben & Jerry's and Magnum ice cream, Dove soap and Hellmann's mayonnaise.

Kraft Heinz's products include Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts, Philadelphia cheese, Frito-Lay and Walkers crisps and Heinz ketchup.

Had the deal gone through, the combined company would have created the world’s second largest packaged foods business after Nestle SA, according to Bloomberg.

Kraft Heinz was formed in 2015 in a deal orchestrated by Heinz’s owners, the Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital, and billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (see News, OFI June 2015). According to just-food, 3G typically targets companies where it believes it can improve margins by driving cuts.