Cash & carries of the future must create food theatres where retailers can sample products and learn about new trends, according to a wholesale boss.

Musgrave is investing €2.2m in a pioneering cash & carry with a culinary demonstration area where products will be cooked for customers to test.

The state-of-the-art depot in Ballymun, Dublin, will also feature a mock-up of a convenience store and fast food proposition that retailers can operate as a franchise, managing director Noel Keeley revealed.

The move comes in response to increasing demand for fresh and healthy products and as foodservice in convenience stores continues to “evolve immensely”.

“We want retailers to engage with our products and to touch, feel and understand them, and to give them a true reason to shop with us,” said Mr Keeley.

“We know people are far more likely to buy ambient food on the internet.

“But they want to see and touch fresh food. You don’t look at a piece of meat and say ‘that’s a great price, I’ll buy that’, you look and say ‘that’s a great piece of meat, I’ll buy that’.”

The cash & carry will aim to become a “destination for food leadership and education”. It will also offer concession space for equipment including refrigeration in addition to the mock-up convenience store.

What the investment means for the future

The investment will help future-proof wholesaling, Mr Keeley added, as retailers seek multiple channels to shop in. Speaking at the Better Wholesaling Summit, run by RN’s sister publication, he added Musgrave Marketplace Online has grown 40% year on year since launching in 2013 with sales expected to hit £100m by the end of 2016 – representing nearly 20% of its business.

“The future of food wholesaling is omnichannel,” he said. “If you don’t respond to customers I don’t believe you will survive in the long-run.”

Eddie Leavey, of Centra in Donameade, Dublin, said: “It’s always better to see what the product would look like in store and where it would go.”