PepsiCo UK is to launch its own van sales operations after talks to take over Palmer & Harvey’s van sales operation broke down.

According to retailer sources, P&H van sales staff were told by managers to “go home and wait” following the company’s collapse, suggesting bosses thought a takeover of the division was imminent.

However, PepsiCo pulled out of talks and instead announced it would be building its own offering with “a third party to provide warehousing and depot services.”

Administrators PwC said that despite interest “it has not been possible to achieve a sale,” and that 404 additional staff from P&H subsidiaries Snacksdirect, Sweetdirect and Direct Van Sales were made redundant on December 8. This takes the total number of redundancies from the collapse of P&H to at least 2,904 out of 3,400 staff.

PepsiCo’s new van sales division will bolster its team of reps and replace services previously provided to retailers by P&H on PepsiCo’s behalf, such as providing sales, support and advice for Walkers snack products.

The news of a replacement service was well received by retailers. John Vine from Newsworld in Church Stretton welcomed it: “I’m happy to see a replacement come into practice so quickly, retailers need to get on with business and anything that helps is a bonus,” he said.

Discussing the replacement of services provided by P&H, PepsiCo impulse sales vice president Huseyin Tulpar explained: “We can quickly replace that service and ensure our retail customers are getting the direct-to-store service and the continuity of supply they require.”

Talks break down

PwC joint administrator Matthew Callaghan told Retail Express: “We have been working closely with the directors of the vans business to pursue a sale. However it is with regret that we have to announce this has not been successful.”

Ex P&H finance director Ed Friel described the failed talks and additional redundancies as “the worst of days” adding: “After 10 frantic days trying to sell our fabulous and profitable direct van sales business, we failed at the very last moment. It still seems unbelievable. We tried everything and I am truly sorry to all those affected.”

“I thought you had crossed the line, so sorry for you all,” responded the wholesaler’s former MD Martyn Ward.

Though not naming now redundant P&H van sales staff directly, a release by PepsiCo said it “will consider any experienced van sales representatives who would like to apply for roles.”

Tulpar added: “The wholesale market is experiencing a significant amount of change and our focus is to ensure that our customers’ needs are being me.”

P&H’s previously purchased PepsiCo’s Walkers van sales division in 2012.