Palmer & Harvey is planning to muscle in on foodservice after buying Walkers’ van sales business snacks Services.

The acquisition, revealed by The Grocer this April, will give the wholesaler a strong presence in foodservice outlets and “grow the number of vans we’ve got in every postcode and the number of postcodes”, said Jim Newson, MD of direct van sales at P&H.

“The Walkers operation has made considerable inroads into pubs, sandwich shops and cafés,” Newson said. “That’s a growing marketplace that holds quite a lot of interest for P&H.”

P&H has been piloting multi-temperate van sales in London and the West Midlands since January. Unlike its van sales to shops, the four vehicles in the pilot can carry chilled drinks.

“The feedback we’ve had is that turning up at the door with a broad range of categories really has value,” Newson said. “Nobody else seems to be providing a service like this in the pilot areas.”

P&H completed the acquisition of Snacks Services for an undisclosed sum on 28 May. The Walkers van field salesforce has transferred to P&H, which is planning to run the two businesses in parallel for the remainder of the year. The division has been renamed P&H Direct Van Sales and sits alongside Snacksdirect and Sweetsdirect. The acquisition broadens P&H’s van sales portfolio, which does not offer PepsiCo-branded snacks.

Walkers’ Snacks Services division suffered a 92% drop in pre-tax profits to £155,000 and a 9% drop in sales to £27.9m in the year to 25 December 2010, according to the most recent accounts available at Companies House. However, Newson said he was confident P&H could grow the business.

Van sales are worth £80m a year to P&H, with 70% of that figure coming from Snacksdirect and 30% from Sweetsdirect.