A historic factory making Colman’s mustard is going to close, dealing a ‘devastating’ blow to the workforce.
Unilever said its site in Norwich will close by the end of 2019, although the company said it will protect the historic link between the city and Colman’s by retaining production of mustard powder, the mustard milling process and mint processing by opening a new facility in the area.
Manufacturing of other products will move to other sites in the UK, mainly Burton upon Trent, while other work will switch to Germany.
The decision will affect 113 jobs, although 40 will transfer to Burton and another 25 will be created in the new facility near Norwich.
Unilever said in a statement that a recent decision by Britvic to close its factory on its shared site in Norwich had ‘serious implications’ for the company.
Unilever's statement in full
‘We will protect the historic link between Colman’s and Norwich by retaining the production and packing of Colman’s mustard powder, the historic mustard milling process, and mint processing in a new state-of-the-art facility in the Norwich area, created through a new long-term partnership with a consortium of local farmers, backed by significant investment from Unilever. We will also continue to source our mint and mustard locally as we have for generations.
‘Manufacturing of the vast majority of the other products is planned to move to other sites in the UK, predominantly Burton upon Trent, home of Marmite and Bovril, reaffirming our commitment to UK food manufacturing. The packing of dry sauces will be absorbed by existing production lines and existing employees at a Unilever factory in Germany, which already makes the dry sauce mix.
‘The review concluded that the proposals announced today represent the best long-term solution for Unilever, while protecting the link between Colman’s and Norwich.
‘We recognise that these proposals will be difficult news for our Norwich employees, their families, and the whole community in Norwich. We are committed to supporting our employees during this difficult time. We will also offer all employees whose roles would be affected by the proposals a package of support, including redeployment opportunities at other sites, and services to help people find new employment.’
Unions have described it as a ‘devastating’ move.
Warren Kenny, regional secretary of GMB, said: ‘This is absolutely devastating news for the workforce at Coleman’s, for the city of Norwich and for manufacturing in East Anglia.
‘It is our immediate intention to speak with our members at Unilever and to seek an urgent meeting with the company and local elected representatives to fully understand what has led Unilever to make this devastating decision, and whether there are alternatives that should, and must be considered.’
Unite’s national officer Rhys McCarthy added: ‘We are urging Unilever to look again at its business case for closure. The decision last month by Britvic to close its half of the site, which produces its Robinsons and Fruit Shoot brands, was unhelpful for the future of Colman’s Mustard in Norwich – but we still don’t believe that closure is the only option for the dedicated workforce.’
A Government spokesman said they were ‘disappointed’ by the decision, but would now work closely with Unilever during its consultation period.
‘The Government is disappointed Unilever has decided to close its Norwich plant, though we welcome Unilever’s commitment to mustard milling and mint production in Norwich,’ he said.
‘While this decision is no reflection on the performance of the site’s highly skilled workforce, it is still clearly a worrying time for Unilever’s dedicated workers and their families.
‘The company will now enter a consultation period and the Government will continue to work closely with Unilever, local MPs and unions throughout this process.’