Colman's Mustard could break 200-year link with Norwich

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Colman's Mustard could cut its 200-year-old ties with Norwich after Unilever launched a review of its manufacturing site in the city.

More than 350 jobs have been put on the line after Unilever and Robinsons squash owner Britvic announced plans that could see their shared manufacturing operation shut down.

The move would sever Norfolk's link with the famous brand, which dates back to 1814 when Jeremiah Colman founded a mustard and flour business in Stoke Holy Cross, near Norwich.

Britvic announced on Tuesday morning that it may transfer production of Robinsons and Fruit Shoot from the Norwich factory to sites in east London, Leeds and Rugby as it looks to make "significant productivity and efficiency savings".

The company said 242 employees affected by the decision will be offered a "comprehensive package of support", including redeployment opportunities at other sites and outplacement services to help find alternative employment.

Britvic is set to begin consultation with staff and, under the plans, the site will close towards the end of 2019.

In a double blow for the city, Unilever has launched a review of its operations at the same site, putting a further 113 jobs at risk.

The company said in a statement: "Following Britvic's announcement that it is proposing to close its manufacturing site in Norwich, Unilever will be launching a review of its production which is co-located at the site.

"Britvic and Unilever's operations have been uniquely intertwined at the site for many years, relying on a shared infrastructure. Although no decisions have been made, we need to recognise that Britvic's proposed withdrawal would have serious implications for Unilever in Norwich.

"One of those options will include the potential closure of our Norwich factory."

Britvic boss Simon Litherland justified his firm's move by stating it presents "significant" productivity and efficiency savings in its manufacturing operations and delivers "environmental benefits".

In 2015 Britvic announced a three-year, £240 million investment into its British manufacturing operations, a plan the firm says it is committed to despite the Norwich closure.

Mr Litherland added: "No decisions will be made prior to full and proper consultation with employees, and our focus is on ensuring we offer our colleagues ongoing support and assistance throughout this difficult time."

Union Unite reacted with anger to the news.

National officer Rhys McCarthy said: "The sad news that Britvic is closing its operations in Norwich also has an impact on Unilever workers who share the same site.

"Unite will not only be seeking assurances, but applying pressure with the support of the local community, that the production and the much-needed jobs that are vital for the Norwich economy remain. Anything else won't cut the mustard.

"The whole of Norfolk needs to come together to fight for the future of Colman's Mustard that is so identified with the city of Norwich. Colman's is in the DNA of the city."