Palmer & Harvey’s Sweetdirect van sales business will be launched officially across the mainland UK on 11 May, The Grocer can reveal.

The venture, which will see confectionery sold to retailers from the back of a van, will be rolled out across the country following a two-year trial in the northwest of England.

The roll-out will involve “a significant investment” for the grocery industry’s biggest wholesaler, which is leasing 100 vans and taking on and training an additional 170 staff.

It will operate from 15 depots, 13 of which will be in addition to the wholesaler’s current network.

“Its real point of difference will be that it offers a broad range of confectionery and expertise to help retailers boost their sales,” said Jim Newsome, Palmer & Harvey’s managing director of direct van sales. “Retailers often don’t have the time to go to cash & carries. Van sales is a very powerful model.”

Newsome said the scheme, which will offer free cabinets and display furniture, has a potential market of 20,000 retailers.

The model is similar to P&H’s Snacksdirect service, which sells crisps and biscuits directly to retailers and pubs.

Snacksdirect has built up a £60m turnover since its launch in 2000 and now has more than 25,000 customers, according to Newsome.

“We hope to be able to replicate the success of Snacksdirect in a different category,” he added.