Colman's to leave Norwich base after 160 years

Media caption,
Unilever is to end Colman's mustard production after 160 years in Norwich

Mustard maker Colman's is to leave its base in Norwich where the condiment has been produced for 160 years.

Colman's, which employs 113 people at its site in the city, will move its production to Burton-on-Trent and Germany.

The GMB union described the closure as "absolutely devastating news".

The union said 43 jobs would be transferred to the Burton site, with 20 moving to a new facility opening in Norwich for milling mustard seeds.

Fears of a closure had been raised when Britvic, which shares the site in Carrow with Colman's, announced in October it was leaving and transferring its production of Robinsons and Fruit Shoot elsewhere in the UK.

Colman's said in December it had reviewed its operations in light of Britvic's closure proposal.

'Difficult news'

The firm, which has been making mustard at the site since 1858, became part of Unilever's Van Den Bergh Foods in 1995.

Unilever said in a statement it recognised it would be "difficult news" for staff and the people of Norwich but added it was "committed to supporting" its employees.

The factory is due to close at the end of next year.

Unilever said the vast majority of products currently made in Norwich would still be produced in the UK, with only the packing of dry sauce mixes switching to Germany.

It said it would also be keeping the "Colman's of Norwich" part of its branding.

Image source, Norfolk County Council
Image caption,
The Colman's factory has been on the site since 1858
Image source, Norfolk County Council
Image caption,
Production line workers at the Colman's works in 1908
Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Colman's advertising in evidence as workers build Norwich City's new Carrow Road ground in 1935
Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Jeremiah James Colman established the Norwich factory in 1858 after his great-uncle Jeremiah started a mustard and flour business in nearby Stoke Holy Cross in 1814

Jon Strachan, vice president of Unilever in the UK, said moving some operations to Burton was the "best option" for the company.

He added: "We wanted to maintain the historic link between Colman's and Norwich and therefore we are also proposing that we invest in a new state-of-the-art-facility in the local area where we will mill and pack our mustard powder and also process our mint.

"That will ensure that we continue to source and grow our mint and mustard here locally, which we've done for generations."

'Bitterly disappointing'

Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, described recent weeks as a "truly awful festive period for hundreds of Norwich food manufacturing workers and their families".

Chloe Smith, the Conservative MP for Norwich North, said Unilever's decision was "bitterly disappointing".

A consortium of mustard and mint growers from Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire has said it will enter into a new long-term partnership with Unilever.

David Martin, chief executive of the Grower's Consortium, said: "This partnership will allow us to jointly develop a new state-of-the-art facility near Norwich.

"We expect that the facility will create around 25 jobs and will open up new possibilities for the future."

Media caption,
Reaction to the factory closure was mixed

The BBC spoke to people on the streets of Norwich. Debbie Harris said: "My great-grandfather was the first janitor Colman's ever had, my grandfather was security and then my father worked for them, so it's a great sadness."

Michelle Storey said: "It's just a bit of Norwich history just gone - it's what made Norwich."

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